adj. 1822 -- Antedating "African-American"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Sep 24 18:48:34 UTC 2011

I'm astounded that I apparently have never looked in Early American
Newspapers for "African-American".

The following antedates the adjective (which OED has from 1858), so
it does not affect Fred's find for the noun (1835).  (The OED entry
for "African-American" was published Sept. 2001.)

1822 Enquirer [Richmond, VA] Sept. 6, page 3, col. 2.

African-American Colony.
Several free persons of color, and one young black man, who had been
implicated in the late plot at Charleston, sailed from that place on
the 13th inst. in the schr. [schooner] Dolphie, for Cape Messurado,
the seat of the American colony on the African coast.

The "American colony" is Liberia, which beginning in 1820 was
colonized by freed American slaves.  "Cape Mesurado is a headland on
the coast of Liberia." [Both factoids from Wikipedia.]

Does this suggest the origin of "African-American" -- blacks of
America who went to Africa as encouraged by the American Colonization Society?

In passing, the distinction between "person of color" and "black" was
found by the OED in 1786, which is also its earliest citation for "of
colo[u]r":  M. Smeathman (title) in Mississippi Valley Hist. Rev.
(1916) 2 501   Plan for a settlement, to be made near Sierra Leone,
and intended more particularly for the service and happy
establishment of blacks and people of color.

(All of the other 35 hits in EAN for "African American", quoted, are
false positives.  Aside from the usual ignoring of punctuation, it
seems that EAN is not treating this as "an exact phrase".  The same
appears to be true of 19th Century U.S. Newspapers.)

There is also in 19th Century U.S. Newspapers an 1842 adjectival use,
later than Fred's noun but earlier than the OED's adjective:

The New York Herald, (New York, NY) Friday, February 11, 1842; Issue
328; col 3 of article headed "Court of Common Pleas".


At 9/23/2011 08:11 PM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
>African-American (OED3 1855)
>1835 _Liberator_ 26 Sept. (19th Century U.S. Newspapers)  Let
>Christian abolition praying societies be formed, of Americans and
>African Americans, every where.
>Fred Shapiro
>YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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