The entrance to the Department of History’s office in Sidney Smith Hall

Book Talk: Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution and Empire

Start Date and Time:

Monday, October 7, 2019, 3:00PM

End Date and Time:

Monday, October 7, 2019, 5:00PM


Sam Erman

Almost Citizens lays out the tragic story of how the United States denied Puerto Ricans full citizenship following annexation of the island in 1898. As America became an overseas empire, a handful of remarkable Puerto Ricans debated with U.S. legislators, presidents, judges, and others over who was a citizen and what citizenship meant. This struggle caused a fundamental shift in constitutional jurisprudence: away from the post-Civil War regime of citizenship, rights, and statehood and toward doctrines that accommodated racist imperial governance. Erman’s gripping account shows how, in the wake of the Spanish–American War, administrators, lawmakers, and presidents, together with judges, deployed creativity and ambiguity to transform constitutional law and interpretation over a quarter century of debate and litigation. The result is a history in which the United States and Latin America, Reconstruction and empire, and law and bureaucracy intertwine.


  • Centre for the Study of the United States

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Image of the from the front cover of Almost Citizens by Sam Erman