"People of color" was; Re: Whom Hispanics call "Hispanic" -- or not

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu May 28 15:01:32 UTC 2009

At 10:39 AM -0400 5/28/09, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>At 5/28/2009 09:54 AM, Baker, John wrote:
>>         When "person of color" first became popular, back in the early
>Just a historical note, recalling that Paul Johnston mentioned the
>use of "nonwhite"in the 19th century:
>The phrase "person of color" was quite common from the early 19th
>century, circa 1815 on, in the various laws controlling them (in many
>cases, in "negro, mulatto, or person of color").  It was also used,
>for a while, by some blacks to refer to themselves (other blacks were
>critical of that term).

Yes, I was surprised several years back when I was looking at an
exhibition here of documents connected with the Amistad uprising
(after the 1997 Spielberg movie came out) and noticed references in
one letter to "persons of color".  It was definitely not used in a
pejorative context.

In fact, John Quincy Adams used the expression in the course of his
argument before the Supreme Court in 1841 in defense of the Amistad
captives; as Joel notes, it was also written directly into the
relevant laws of property (slave) ownership.


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

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