The Legal Theory Bookworm recommends Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America by Martha S. Jones. Here is a description:
Birthright Citizens tells how African American activists radically transformed the terms of citizenship for all Americans. Before the Civil War, colonization schemes and black laws threatened to deport former slaves born in the United States. Birthright Citizens recovers the story of how African American activists remade national belonging through battles in legislatures, conventions, and courthouses. They faced formidable opposition, most notoriously from the US Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott. Still, Martha S. Jones explains, no single case defined their status. Former slaves studied law, secured allies, and conducted themselves like citizens, establishing their status through local, everyday claims. All along they argued that birth guaranteed their rights. With fresh archival sources and an ambitious reframing of constitutional law-making before the Civil War, Jones shows how as the Fourteenth Amendment constitutionalized the birthright principle, black Americans' aspirations were realized.
And from the blurbs:
"Beautifully written and deeply researched, Birthright Citizens transforms our understanding of the evolution of citizenship in nineteenth-century America. Martha Jones demonstrates how the constitutional revolution of Reconstruction had roots not simply in legal treatises and court decisions but in the day to day struggles of pre-Civil War African-Americans for equal rights as members of the national community." -Eric Foner, Columbia University, author of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 and The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
"Birthright Citizens is a brilliant and richly researched work that could not be more timely. Who is inside and who is outside the American circle of citizenship has been a fraught question from the Republic's very beginnings. With great clarity and insight, Jones mines available records to show how one group--black Americans in pre-Civil War Baltimore-- sought to claim rights of citizenship in a place where they had lived and labored. This is a must-read for all who are interested in what it means to be an American." -Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family and "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs": Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination
"Birthright Citizens gives new life to a long trajectory of African Americans' efforts to contest the meaning of citizenship through law and legal action.They claimed citizenship rights in the courts of Baltimore, decades before the concept was codified in the federal constitution - ordinary people, even the formally disfranchised, actively engaged in shaping what citizenship meant for everyone. Martha Jones takes a novel approach that scholars and legal practitioners will need to reckon with to understand history and our own times." -Tera Hunter, Princeton University, author of Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century
"Martha Jones's 'history of race and rights' utterly upends our understanding of the genealogy of citizenship. By showcasing ordinary people acting on their understanding of law's potentialities, Jones demonstrates the vibrancy of antebellum black ideas of birthright citizenship and their impact on black political and intellectual life. Written with verve, and pulling back the curtain on the scholar's craft, Birthright Citizens makes an important contribution to both African American and socio-legal history." -Dylan Penningroth, University of California, Berkeley author of The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South
"In this exacting study, legal historian Martha Jones reinterprets the Dred Scott decision through a fresh and utterly revealing lens, reframing this key case as just one moment in a long and difficult contest over race and rights. Jones mines Baltimore court records to uncover a textured legal landscape in which free black men and women knew and used the law to push for and act on rights not clearly guaranteed to them. Her sensitive and brilliant analysis transforms how we view the status of free blacks under the law, even as her vivid writing brings Baltimore vibrantly alive, revealing the import of local domains and institutions - states, cities, courthouses, churches, and even ships - to the larger national drama of African American history. Part meditation on a great nineteenth-century city, part implicit reflection on contemporary immigration politics, and part historical-legal thriller, Birthright Citizens is an astonishing revelation of the intricacies and vagaries of black struggles for the rights of citizenship." -Tiya Miles, author of The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits