Jesse Jackson wants to ban "N-word"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Dec 2 04:43:00 UTC 2006

"Afro-American" was once popularized in the mid-'60's?! Who knew? If
it was, well, I'll be John Brown, as my mother would so.

And, needless to say, there's no parallelism between
"African-Americans" and "Italian-Americans" or "Japanese-Americans,"
given that Africa is a continent and Italy and Japan are merely


On 12/1/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Jesse Jackson wants to ban "N-word"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On 12/1/06, Margaret Lee <mlee303 at> wrote:
> >
> > FWIW, this is an excerpt from a paper I wrote on the subject a few years ago:
> >
> > The shift from Black to African American occurred in 1988 when Dr. Ramona
> > Edelin, President of the National Urban Coalition, proposed that the next year's
> > meeting be called, not the Black Summit, but the African American Summit.
> > The purpose of this change was to reassess the condition of blacks in America
> > while "linking Africans in North America with those on the Continent of Africa and
> > throughout the Diaspora "(Smitherman, in Mufwene et al., 1998, 213).
> Edelin was also involved in the Dec. 19, 1988 press conference of
> black leaders where "African-American" first got serious media
> exposure, but Jesse Jackson got most of the attention:
> -----
> New York Times, Dec. 21, 1988, p. A16
> Jackson and Others Say 'Blacks' Is Passe
> CHICAGO, Dec. 20 (AP) -- A group of prominent blacks, including the
> Rev. Jesse Jackson, says members of their race prefer to be called
> African-Americans.
> ''Just as we were called colored, but were not that, and then Negro,
> but not that, to be called black is just as baseless,'' Mr. Jackson
> said at a news conference Monday after the group met to discuss
> national goals.
> ''To be called African-Americans has cultural integrity,'' he said.
> ''It puts us in our proper historical context. Every ethnic group in
> this country has a reference to some land base, some historical
> cultural base. African-Americans have hit that level of cultural
> maturity.''
> Mr. Jackson was joined by Richard Hatcher, the former Mayor of Gary,
> Ind., Ramona Edelin, the National Urban Coalition's president, Gloria
> Toote, a former Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development,
> and others.
> -----
> And back in the mid-'60s when "Afro-American" was popularized, there
> were already some suggesting "African-American" as an alternative:
> -----
> New York Times, Dec. 11, 1966, p. 45
> Substitute Word for "Negro" Argued
> "There's no letter 'o' in Africa; we should just be called
> African-Americans, just as others are called Italian-Americans or
> Japanese-Americans," said Mr. Michaux [sc. Lewis H. Michaux, owner of
> the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem].
> -----
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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