[Ads-l] terminology - Black American vs. African American

Margaret Lee 0000006730deb3bf-dmarc-request at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Tue Jan 6 10:33:15 UTC 2015

Thanks, Joel, for the list of historical references.  I was aware that 'African American' was in use (but not extensively) in the 1800's. I was simply referring to when the term was seriously considered (by Blacks) as a replacement  for 'Black' and became what you refer to as a 'movement.' 
--Margaret Lee
      From: Joel S. Berson <Berson at ATT.NET>
 Sent: Monday, January 5, 2015 1:29 PM
 Subject: Re: terminology - Black American vs. African American
At 1/5/2015 07:04 AM, Margaret Lee wrote:

>The term 'African American' was originally 
>introduced and suggested to replace 'Black' in 
>1988 by Dr. Ramona Edelin, then president of the 
>National Urban Coalition.  Jesse Jackson then 
>popularized the term and incorrectly received 
>credit for originally introducing it.
>--Margaret LeeÂ

There's discussion in the ADS-L archives about 
the pre-historical use (that is, before 
Edelin/Jackson) of these and other terms.  I 
reported research I did in Early American 
Newspapers and Google Books in a message of 2 Mar 
2011 titled "Nigger vs. Colored, et al."  It 
gives numbers of hits, sometimes separated into 
periods (e.g., before or after 1800), for various 
terms (not including "black", which is not amenable to database searching).

Margaret, in Gbooks I found 42 instances 
of  "African American" before 1800 (none in EAN), 
most of which are probably false positives -- but 
one genuine quotation, probably the earliest, is 
from 1822 Sep 6, the Enquirer.  Of course this 
merely means the term was available long before 
Edelin, not that there was any movement then to 
adopt "African American" to replace "black".  For 
analysis of the historical evolution, see:

Rael, Patrick. “Introduction.” In 
African-American Activism before the Civil War: 
The Freedom Struggle in the Antebellum North, ed. 
Patrick Rael (New York: Routeledge, 2008).  p. 18.

Rael, Patrick. Black Identity & Black Protest in 
the Antebellum North. Chapel Hill: University of 
North Carolina Press, 2002.  pp.  84--85.

Black American Reference Book. Ed. Mabel M. 
Smythe. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1976.  pp. xi---xii.

Drake, St. Clair. “Negro Americans and the Africa 
Interest.” In The American Negro Reference Book, 
ed. John P. Davis (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: 
Prentice-Hall, 1966).  p. 700.  [And note the 
change in title between 1966 and 1976!]


>  From: Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>  Sent: Sunday, January 4, 2015 2:38 PM
>  Subject: Re: terminology - Black American vs. African American
>On Sun, Jan 4, 2015 at 12:24 PM, Tom Zurinskas <truespel at hotmail.com> wrote:
> > Whites think African American is a better term.
>Do they really? Or have they been gorilla-ed into it by some loud-mouthed
>"spokesman," such as, in the this case, the Revd. Jesse? Back in the day,
>Jackson advocated so strongly for "A-A" that I thought that it was his
>original idea. (As did others. A white woman from Jo-berg, in a letter to
>the editor of The Boston Globe, rhetorically and sarcastically asked, given
>that she was a native African now an American citizen, what Jackson would
>call her. Well, as any fool can plainly see, he would, if the occasion
>arose, call her "white." What could possibly matter beyond that? *Nothing*
>else. How can that not be so totally obvious as to render such a question
>utterly otiose?!)
>The fact of the matter is that someone else suggested it. The Rev merely
>"took the ball and ran with it," to coin a phrase. In other words, "he made
>it his own," to coin another phrase.

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


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

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