Further Antedating of "African-American"
Joel S. Berson
Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Sep 25 15:48:55 UTC 2011
Well, I still disagree.
>1832 _Edinburgh Encyclopedia_ XVII. 275 (Google Books) Since the
>year 1822 the Americans have founded a colony at the mouth of the
>river Mesavada, to the south of Sierra Leone. This colony has been
>called Liberia, and the principal town Monrovia. The population
>consists of African-Americans, and of free negroes.
(The containing article is on Sierra Leone, and was written before
the Republic of Liberia was declared.in 1847.)
This clear association with Liberia and 1822 only reinforces, in my
mind, that the 1822 and 1832 "African-American" have the same meaning
-- Americans of African descent.
>My response to Joel is the following: Liberia was frequently
>referred to as "the American colony." "African American colony"
>meant the American colony in Africa. It is a collocation that only
>coincidentally looks like the phrase "African-American" in its
I don't think the collocation is "only coincidental", given the 1822
and 1832 quotations. And if the meaning was "the American colony in
Africa", wouldn't the 1822 article title have been "American African
colony" in that order? (Or "American colony in Africa"?)
At 9/25/2011 08:31 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>The best part here is that it shows the evolution from [African
>[American colony]] to [African-American]--but, although this is a noun
>and it's completely integral, the meaning is still "Americans in
>Africa", not "Americans /from/ Africa".
[Here Victor is referring to Fred's 1832 quotation.] This is the
essence of the disagreement. I say that it is *Americans* who were
*from Africa* -- either by birth or descendants of such -- that is
meant by "African-American" in the 1822 quotation. There can be no
question that it is *Americans*, "of color" and "free black", that
emigrated -- they left from Charleston.
And I see the same meaning, "Americans of African descent", in Fred's
1832 quotation (I assume he does too, since he provided it here as an
antedating of the OED's 1855 quotation.) But if the 1822 quotations
means "Americans in Africa", as Victor says, then isn't that also
true of the 1832 quotation -- both don't qualify?
>I am assuming, also, that "free
>negroes" refers to the indigenous population.
I frankly think the Edinburgh Encyclopedia description is off-base or
loose: "The population consists of African-Americans, and of free
negroes." In the 1822 quotation the "free negroes" have left
America: "Several free persons of color, and one young black man,
who had been implicated in the late plot at Charleston, sailed from
that place ...". And "free negroes" at this time and in this context
meant "freed", not "born free". Thus the "free negroes" are not
indigenous to Liberia. And surely by "African-Americans" the
Edinburgh Encyclopedia did not mean native Africans who were (now)
living in an "American colony". (As I wrote earlier, Liberia was
never an American dependency; the land was purchased for the American
Colonization Society, a private organization, governed by the
residents, and declared a republic in 1847.)
Certainly loose is the wording "the Americans have founded a colony
...". This does not distinguish the American government (the U.S.)
from a private enterprise. (While the 1822 article also does not
explicitly distinguish government from private -- it says "the
American colony on the African coast" -- I read that as "the colony
>Of course, there is a
>subtext that the "Americans" who ended up in Liberia are themselves
This of course is my argument (except for *sub*text). And "from"
means "born in or descendants of persons born in".
>so it may well be a moot point. However, the question
>remains as to when the tag "African-American" stopped being applied to
>someone who was physically in Africa.
I doubt that it ever meant broadly "someone [American] who was
physically in Africa". Surely such a label surely would not have
been acceptable to/for a white American in Africa. It could only
have been applied to someone "of African origin; a black American",
as in the OED definition.
>Both types of finds are significant--and I don't want to discount Joel's
>pair in the least--but the significance is rather different.
>On 9/25/2011 8:02 AM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
>>African-American (OED3 1855)
>>1832 _Edinburgh Encyclopedia_ XVII. 275 (Google Books) Since the
>>year 1822 the Americans have founded a colony at the mouth of the
>>river Mesavada, to the south of Sierra Leone. This colony has been
>>called Liberia, and the principal town Monrovia. The population
>>consists of African-Americans, and of free negroes.
>>NOTE: Although the 1832 dating appears to be accurate based on the
>>digitized title page, one never knows with Google Books, so this
>>would need to be verified in the print before being accepted.
>>YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)
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