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Civil Rights
Guide: Citizenship

This selection of resources highlights the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship. Use these primary and secondary sources to help students explore how the granting of U.S. citizenship has changed over time, as well as how citizenship works today for both natural-born and naturalized citizens. Use the Export to My Lists button above to turn this into a research list for your students.

Theme Key Understandings

  • Civil liberties and civil rights are related but distinct and can be in conflict with each other
  • Government documents provide a framework for the protection of civil rights and liberties in a society
  • The judicial branch interprets and defines civil liberties and civil rights as they apply in practice
  • Civil liberties protect against government overreach
  • Civil rights assure equal protection under the law
  • The attainment of civil rights is an ongoing process, with different groups achieving parity at different times
  • The judicial branch is tasked with finding a balance between the protection of individual liberty and maintaining positive social order

Key Questions

  • Why is it critical for American citizens to not just enjoy the benefits of their citizenship but to also uphold their responsibilities?
  • Should there be penalties for citizens who do not fulfill such responsibilities of citizenship as participating in the democratic process? For example, in some nations citizens must pay a fine if they do not vote. If so, why, and what should those penalties be? If not, why not?
  • Birthright citizenship, the process of gaining citizenship to a country because one was born there, has sparked numerous debates about the effects of immigration on the country. Should the United States retain birthright citizenship?


  1. Overview: Citizenship
  2. Outlines: Outline
  3. Transcripts: Transcript
  4. Lesson: Introduction
  5. Lesson: 1-The Concept of Citizenship
  6. Lesson: 2-Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens
  7. Lesson: 3-Becoming a U.S. Citizen
  8. Lesson: Closing
  9. Investigate Activities: Birthright Citizenship
  10. Glossary Terms: naturalization
  11. Photos & Illustrations: Ellis Island: immigrants await examination
  12. Photos & Illustrations: New U.S. citizens in St. Louis
  13. Reference Articles: Citizenship: Civil Rights and Liberties
  14. Reference Articles: Fourteenth Amendment
  15. Reference Articles: Dred Scott v. Sandford
  16. Political, Government & Court Documents: Birthright Citizenship under the 14th Amendment (CRS, 2010)
  17. Political, Government & Court Documents: Qualifications for President and "Natural Born" Citizenship (CRS, 2011)
  18. Political, Government & Court Documents: United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898)
  19. Political, Government & Court Documents: Citizenship test: 100 questions

MLA Citation

"Citizenship." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Content/2156182?cid=256. Accessed 6 Dec. 2019.

Entry ID: 2156182

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