"civil rights", 1827

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Tue Jun 30 19:47:34 UTC 2009

On Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 03:20:00PM -0400, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> Under "civil, a." sense 5.b., the OED has as part of its definition
> "spec. in the U.S., the rights of Black people as citizens."  Its
> first citation for this sense is 1866.  (Its only earlier citation
> here, 1721, is clearly about the rights of the [white male] people of
> the colony of Massachusetts against the royal prerogative.)  There
> are 19 quotations (anywhere) for "civil right[s]" earlier than 1866,
> but I suspect none apply to the rights of slaves or blacks.

For what it's worth, this entry is under revision now, and our
treatment is rather different. Also, our earliest quotation is
now from 1614. (There are still earlier examples on EEBO, but
apparently being used in opposition to spiritual or divine
rights, instead of referring to the right of the citizen in

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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