What is “Contested Citizenship”?

Election week is always an appropriate time to think about the ongoing struggle for voting rights and the legacy of American slavery. There has never been an easy path towards full citizenship for African Americans or women: from the creation of the Constitution to the Civil War and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Nineteenth Amendment and eventually the Voting Rights Act, the long history to fulfill the bold assertion that all citizens have a right to choose their leaders is a distinct belief central to the American way of life. It is up to us to continue to ensure that every citizen is fully represented.

Dawn Blagrove is an attorney and the Executive Director of Emancipate NC, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to “dismantling structural racism and mass incarceration across North Carolina … through community education, narrative shift, and litigation.”

This is an excerpt from her keynote address on September 9, 2022, to the “Voices of Change: Contested Citizenship Conference,” hosted by Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. The regional conference was part of the national Legacies of American Slavery: Reckoning with the Past initiative. You can watch the entire address at https://vimeo.com/748194386.