Did you know that in addition to celebrating the creation of the Constitution on September 17th, the United States also celebrates Citizenship Day? Citizenship Day recognizes all who, “by coming of age or by naturalization have become citizens.”
What makes a person a citizen of the U.S.? According to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified on July 9, 1868, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.” This has been subject to interpretation and change since the 14th Amendment was enacted. For example, Native Americans were not officially considered United States citizens until the Indian Citizenship Act was passed in 1924.
In 1940, Congress decreed that the third Sunday in May would be I Am an American Day. In 1952, the day was moved to September 17 to correspond with the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Then, in 2004, Congress approved legislation to combine the two events into one holiday, declaring September 17th to be both Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
Want to learn more about Citizenship Day? The blog of the Law Library of Congress, In Custodia Legis, includes information on the 14th Amendment, which identifies who is a citizen of the United States and the legal cases that shaped how it was enforced. Links to primary sources on the 14th Amendment is available in a web guide. A search on “citizenship” in Congress.gov will also produce information on recent legislation about citizenship.
Ask students to read some of the presidential proclamations on Citizenship Day. Why is it important to commemorate these two important events?
Encourage students to review the Constitution. What are the rights and responsibilities of United States citizens as noted in the Constitution?
Need more primary sources relating to the Constitution? Explore our Constitution Primary Source Set as well as the material provided in the Constitution Web guide. The online exhibit on Creating the United States provides information on the history of the Constitution and its impact on the United States.
Suggest your students consider ways to encourage people in your community to be better citizens. Share your students’ suggestions in the comments.