Race, Immigration and Citizenship

The 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1965 Immigration Reform Act were three of the twentieth century’s most transformative laws.  This course will use them as case studies in the development and implementation of public policy.

Those laws were intended to correct problems created by earlier policies.  Thus, we need to begin the course with a review of the nation’s history.  At every point, white men made choices (women and non-whites tended to be excluded from politics until the 20th century) based on their personal interests, prejudices, and moral beliefs.  At every point, they could have made different choices.  For example, the Constitution did not have to perpetuate slavery or exclude Indians from citizenship, and there was nothing inevitable (or “Biblically ordained”) about racial classifications.  We will spend the first few class sessions reviewing the choices that led to regimes of racial repression, the exclusion of Asians, and limits on naturalized citizenship.

Then, we will move to the early 1950s.  That was when a black woman’s refusal to yield her bus seat gave rise to the modern civil rights movement.  It also was when Congress eliminated racial restrictions on naturalized citizenship and when the Supreme Court struck down the Texas Democratic Party’s white primary system.  These things led, in turn, to the Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and Immigration Reform laws.  Toward the end of the course, we will look at the effects of the new policy regime, at current controversies over immigration and voting rights, and at several factors that portend dramatic shifts in the color line.

Throughout the course, we will pay attention to the processes, policy instruments, and institutions that shape public policy. 


Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988).
W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (any edition).
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (any edition).
Jennifer Hochschild, Vesla Weaver, and Traci Burch, Creating A New Racial Order, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012).
Ian Haney Lopez, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race, (New York: New York University Press, 2006).
Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).
Edward Telles, Race in Another America: The Significance of Skin Color in Brazil, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).


Two-page paper                                                        10%
Class participation                                                    10%
Research prospectus (paper and briefing)                 20%
Research findings (paper and briefing)                     40%
Policy memo and briefing                                         20%