Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2010

Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Christine Skwiot

Second Advisor

Dr. Jared Poley

Third Advisor

Dr. Michele Reid-Vazquez

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Charles Steffen


The Path of Good Citizenship illuminates the role of public schools in attempts by white Americans to organize republican citizenship and labor along lines of race and ethnicity during a time of anxiety over immigration and the emergence of the U.S. as a global power. By considering U.S. schools as both national and imperial institutions, it presupposes that the formal education of children served as multilayered exchanges of power through which myriad actors constructed, debated, and contested parameters of citizenship and visions of belonging in the United States. Using the discursive narratives of American exceptionalism, scientific racialism, and patriotism, authors of school curricula imagined a uniform Americanness rooted in Anglo‐Saxon institutions and racial character. Schools not only became mechanisms of the U.S. imperial state in order to control belonging and access supposedly afforded by citizenship, but simultaneously created opportunities for foreigners and “foreigners within” to shape their own relationships with the nation. Ideological attempts to construct a nation that excluded and included on the basis of race and foreignness had very real implications. Using comparative case studies of Atlanta’s African‐Americans, San Francisco’s Japanese, and New York’s European immigrants, this dissertation shows how policies of segregation, exclusion, and Americanization both complicated and sustained designs for a national body of citizens and workers. Schools trained many of these students for citizenship that included subordinate labor roles, limited social mobility, and marginalized national identity rooted in racial difference. These localized analysis reveal the contested power dynamics that involved challenges from immigrant and non‐white communities to a racial nationalism that often slotted them into subordinate economic and social categories. Taken together, curricula and policy reveal schools to be integral to the mutually sustaining projects of nation‐building and empire‐building.