The Most Controversial Census Changes in American HistoryBreaking News
In March 2018, the Commerce Department controversially announced that it would include a question on citizenship in the 2020 census—the first such question since 1950, and one that at least 12 states say they would sue over.
The census, a Constitutionally-mandated survey of the U.S. population taken every decade since 1790, has a long history of being used as a political tool. Critics of the latest move fear the new citizenship question will be used to identify and deport Latino immigrants or reapportion funding and representation in areas where they live. In the past, census information has been used to reinforce “pure” white ancestry as the standard for full citizenship.
Many of the changes the census has gone through have to do with race and power in America. This is particularly evident when looking at the censuses taken between 1850 and 1930, a period of rapid change that saw the end of slavery and the beginning of Jim Crow. During this time, the census sought to classify how much African ancestry a person had, thereby reinforcing a social structure that denied full citizenship to people with any amount of African heritage.
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