coloured folk

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri Jul 15 17:35:56 UTC 2011

It's true that the OED's entry on "colored", adjective, was written when Jim
Murray was little more than an infant; still, whether or not the files today
have instances from the U. S. before 1825 of coloured in the racial sense
[OED = 2b:], the following has interest.

[From a report of a suit in New Paltz, N. Y. in 1825 by Phillis Schoonmaker
against Cuff Hodgeboom, for Breach of the Promise of Marriage.]

The parties as their names indicate, are black, or, as philanthropists would
say coloured folks.

This is taken from the New-York Spectator, of April 29, 1825, but citing
"Noah's Advocate", aka the New-York National Advocate (which is not the same
as the National Advocate, which was being published in NYC at the same time.
 Don't ask how's come -- I might tell you).

 The story went viral, and a search of Readex's America's Historical
Newspapers turns up 11 versions of it, all citing Noah's Advocate.

The OED:

[2b]  Having a skin other than ‘white’; *esp.* wholly or partly of black or
‘coloured’ descent. In *S. Afr.* Of mixed black or brown and white descent;
also (with capital initial), of or belonging to the population group of such
mixed descent. *Cape Coloured* *adj.* and *n.* at cape *n.**3*
Compounds 2<>

1612    J. Speed *Theatre of Empire of Great
i. xxv.
49/1   Their‥coloured countenances, and curled haire.

1760–72    J. Adams tr. A. de Ulloa *Voy.
I. iii. iii.
121   The‥Negro women, or the coloured women as they are called here.

1832    F. Marryat *Newton
iii. 32   ‘Au cachôt!’ cried all the coloured girls.

1838    W. B. Boyce *Notes S. Afr.
The coloured population are‥demoralized in large towns in the neighbourhood
of canteens.

1844    Gilchrist *Cape of Good
20   The native population of the colony is generally called Hottentot, or
bastard Hottentot, most of the coloured people approaching pretty nearly to
the Hottentot formation, and some presenting a greater or smaller mixture of
other, principally European, blood.

1850    H. B. Stowe *Uncle Tom's
182   Among the coloured circles of New Orleans.

[and more]
George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ.
Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.

The American Dialect Society -

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