when did "Black" start replacing....

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu May 25 15:14:29 UTC 2006

In the 1960s I was a 20+-years-old white liberal.  My recollection of
this shift associates it with Martin Luther King, and an intention to
eliminate among black people a preference for those who were light
skinned: light or dark, all were equally black.

In NYC in the mid-late 1830s there was a newspaper called the Colored
American.  This title represented a rejection of "African", used by
some whites as the term for people with some African ancestors, and an
assertion that such people were Americans.
At about this same time I begin to see in some newspapers aimed a
white readers the use of the word "nigger".  I notice that the first
occurrence of this word from newspapers in my notes, other than in
purported transcriptions of speech, as from testimony at a trial,
comes from the Morning Courier & N-Y Enquirer in 1829 -- a respectable
newspaper.  In 1834 and after I have it from the Transcript and from
Ely's Hawk & Buzzard -- both disreputable papers, especially the
latter -- the NYTimes (not an ancestor of the present Times) and the


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
Date: Thursday, May 25, 2006 10:37 am
Subject: Re: when did "Black" start replacing....

> For some reason the following reply, intended for all, went to
> Sean only :
>  I recall Stokely Carmichael and/or H. Rap Brown explicitily
> insisting on the exclusive use of _Black_ (capitalized) for the
> reason that _Negro_ "meant" _nigger_.  These statements received
> wide media coverage.
>  The year was either 1967 or 1969, the latter I think. Before
> that, except for the occasional neutral use in anthropology (e.g.,
> "black Africans") whites used _black_ chiefly as a deliberate
> insult. "Negro" was the dignified standard term and "colored" was
> quite acceptable, but only as an adjective (as in NAACP). The
> common phrase "the coloreds" almost always reflected a racial
> animus.  Though it existed, whites rarely used "Afro-Americans."
> The usual phrase was "American Negroes."
>  JL
> ---------------------------------
> Sneak preview the  all-new Yahoo.com. It's not radically
> different. Just radically better.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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