Afterword
While productive of vibrant political lives, U.S. ideals of citizenship
and democracy have often alienated and depoliticized subjects. In the
wake of such alienation, formal legal persons endowed with rights can
become dehistoricized bodies. Although Necro Citizenship has been
concerned with rhetoric and discourse that deadens embodied sub-
jects, I do not mean to suggest that the positive goals of political rec-
ognition and enfranchisement are dead values. Human emancipation
and social justice cannot proceed without commitments to freedom
and equality framed by the pragmatic workings of citizenship and
democracy. But neither do I want to overlook the fact that realiza-
tions of democratic citizenship in the United States have legitimated
hierarchy and estrangement as natural and necessary to our political
condition.
By way of a final comment, I turn to the 1871 Supreme Court deci-
sion, Blyew v. United States, that squared citizenship and death. The
facts in the case are these: on the night of 29 August 1868, two white
men, Blyew and Kennard, broke into a cabin and used a broadax to
kill three members of a Kentucky black family and seriously wound
a fourth, seventeen-year-old Richard Foster. Two days later, Richard
died of his injuries, but not without first identifying the two white
men as the murderers. Richard’s younger sister, Laura, hid in a trundle
bed and escaped. She saw and heard enough to corroborate her dead
brother’s story later at the trial of Blyew and Kennard. Under the
jurisdiction of the 1866 Civil Rights Act, the case came before a U.S.
circuit court as a federal, not a state, matter. By taking the case to
the federal level, U.S. attorneys circumvented Kentucky’s black code,
which prohibited blacks from giving testimony against white citizens.
Also among those slain was Richard and Laura’s blind grandmother,
Lucy Armstrong. The argument for federal jurisdiction hinged on the
citizenship status of this ninety-year-old woman. Because ‘‘the said
Previous Page Next Page