Timeline -- Terms for African Americans

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Oct 17 18:32:54 UTC 2011

The following timeline for various terms used by or for
African-Americans strongly suggests to me that the earliest
instances, although some may be ambiguous in isolation, ought when
considered together with later appearances to be taken as meaning "an
American of African descent."

For example, in 1817 "Africo-American" clearly refers to people.  The
fuller quotation is:
"Then may the sable Africo-American, who shook his manacles at the
conservators of the rights of man, while he was dragged through the
city of Liberty, raise his unfettered hands, and again exclaim, 'Hail
Columbia, happy land, / Hail ye heroes, heaven-born band.'"

And in 1826, also for "Africo-American":  "Lott, Carey, Colston, M.
Waring, Africo-American Missionaries."

Between these two is the 1822 headline "African-American Colony",
which some have claimed might only mean "American colony in
Africa".  I suggest it is in the mold and sense of the two
surrounding "Africo-American" instances.

The following seem the earliest completely unambiguous instances of
the five terms:
     African-American -- now 1832 (1855 OED).
     Africo-American -- 1817.
     Afro-American -- 1853 (OED).
     American-African -- 1830.
     Americo-African -- 1831.

1817 -- Africo-American:  "Then may the sable Africo-American ..."  GBooks

1822 -- African-American:  "African-American Colony"
[headline].  America's Historical Newspapers

1826 -- "Africo-American:  "Lott, Carey, Colston, M. Waring,
Africo-American Missionaries."

1826 -- American-African:  "A letter from Monrovin, (American African
Settlement,)".  19th Century U.S. Papers

1827 -- American-African:  "The American African Colony.---The most
authentic accounts represent the Colony at Liberia ...".  GBooks

1827 -- Americo-African:  "The Americo-African Colony." [headline].  EAN

1828 -- Americo-African:  "The germ of an Americo-African empire has
been planted; and though our Society should be dissolved to-morrow,
it will flourish and expand until it overshadows a continent."  GBooks

1830 -- American-African:  "the American African was hopeless of
assistance".  African Repository, vol. 5, page 369.  GBooks.

1831 -- Africo-American:  an outrage said to have been committed on
some of our Africo-American population".  19th Century U.S. Newspapers

1831 -- Americo-African:  "Americo-African population of Liberia,
2,000. Native Africans, who have abolished their ancient government,
and become citizens of the colony, 10,000."  GBooks

1832 -- African-American: "The population consists of
African-Americans and of free negroes."  Fred Shapiro/GBooks

1835 -- African-American:  "Let Christian abolition praying societies
be formed, of Americans and African Americans, every where."  Fred

1836 -- Africo-American:  "the oppressed Africo-American". 19th
Century U.S. Newspapers

1839 -- Americo-African:  "And the alternatives may at last be the
dissolution of the union, the retention of slavery, or the utter
extermination of the Americo-African race, ..."  GBooks

1842 -- African-American:  "the 'African American Anti-Masonic
Grocery Association'".  New York Herald

1853 -- Afro-American:  "the true policy of the *Afro-American race".  OED

1855 -- American-African: ""his race I shall term the
American-African race, the cross blood ...".   Acc. Arch./AA Newspapers

1855 -- African-American: "House of Bondage for African
Americans."  OED (its earliest)

1858 -- American African: "... asylum of the American African
..."  America's Historical Newspapers

1858 -- African-American:  "African-American population of"  OED

1859 -- Americo-African:  "destinies fixed as a permanent abode of
Americo-African slaves or Americo-African freeman."  Acc. Arch./AA Newspapers

[I did not attempt to gather representative instances from 1860 on.]


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

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