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A Negro is a person of Black ancestry. Prior to the shift in the lexicon of American and worldwide classification of race and ethnicity in the late 1960s, the appellation was accepted as a normal, completely neutral, formal term both by those of Black African descent as well as those of non-African black descent. During the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, some African American leaders objected to the word, preferring Black. During the 1960s Negro came to be considered an ethnic slur.Henderson, Anita. (2003) "What's in a slur?" American Speech 78(1):52-74.
Baugh, John. (1999) Out of the Mouths of Slaves: African American Language and Educational Malpractice. Austin: University of Texas Press. The term is now considered archaic and is not commonly used as a racist slur. The term is still used in some contexts for historical reasons such as in the name of the United Negro College Fund. or the Negro league in sports. "Negro" means "black" in Spanish, Portuguese, and ancient Italian; all of these derive from the Latin niger (i.e., "black").

Modern synonyms in common use include the following:

"Negro" superseded "colored" as the most polite terminology, at a time when "black" was still generally regarded as negative.

In English

Around 1442, the Portuguesemarker first arrived in sub-Saharan Africa while trying to find a sea route to India. The term negro, literally meaning "black", was used by the Spanishmarker and Portuguese to refer to people. From the 18th century to the late 1960s, "negro" (later capitalized) was considered the proper English term for all people of sub-Saharan African origin.

It fell out of favor by the early 1970s in the United Statesmarker after the Civil Rights movement. However, older African Americans from the period when "Negro" was considered acceptable, initially found the term "Black" more offensive than "Negro". Evidence for this is in historical African-American organizations and institutions' use of the term—such as the United Negro College Fund. In current English language usage, "Negro" is generally considered acceptable in a historical context, such as baseball's Negro Leagues of the early and mid-20th century, or in the name of older organizations, as in Negro spirituals, the United Negro College Fund or the Journal of Negro Education. The U.S. Census now uses the grouping "Black or African American."

A specifically female form of the word—negress (sometimes capitalized) —was sometimes used; but, like another gender-specific word "Jewess", it has all but completely fallen from use. (An exception is its extremely unusual use in the titles of paintings, drawings[700373] and sculptures,[700374] largely as an allusion to the formerly common occurrence of the word in such titles, but such usage has dropped off dramatically.) Both are considered racist and sexist, although as with other racial, ethnic, and sexual words that are seen as pejoratives, some individuals have tried "reclaiming" the word. An example of this is artist Kara Walker. [700375]

The related word Negroid was used by 19th and 20th century racial anthropologists. The suffix -oid means "similar to" and is meant to designate a wider or more generalized category than the original word.

In other languages

In Portuguese, negro is an adjective meaning the color black, as in 'black' person. However, preto is the most common antonym of branco (white), while negro can be condescending, since it is a word generally associated with higher registers. In Brazilmarker the word is considered respectful and the appropriate manner to refer to the black race, though it is often considered impolite to take note of an individual's skin color in any context (which causes the word to be used only in reported speech or in third-person). In Brazil and Portugal negro is the most respectful way to address the African ethnicity, with preto being considered a racial slur.

In Spain, negro (note that ethnonyms are generally not capitalized in Romance languages) means "black person" in colloquial situations, but it can be considered derogatory in other situations (for example, by French influence, negro is also the word for a ghost writer ). However, in Spanish-speaking countries, such as Argentinamarker, Chilemarker, Uruguaymarker , negro (negra for females) is commonly used to refer to partners, close friends or people in general independent of skin color.

It is similar to the use of the word "nigga" in urban communities in the U.S. For example, one may say to a friend, "Negro ¿Como andas? (Literally, "Hey, black one, how are you doing?") In this case the diminutive negrito is used, as a term of endearment meaning "pal", or "buddy" or "friend." Negrito has come to be used to refer to a person of any ethnicity or color, and also can have a sentimental or romantic connotation similar to "sweetheart," or "dear" in English. (In the Philippinesmarker, Negrito was used for a local dark-skinned short person, living in the Negrosmarker islands among other places)

In other Spanish-speaking South American countries, the word negro can also be employed in a roughly equivalent form, though it is not usually considered to be as widespread as in Argentina or Uruguay (except perhaps in a limited regional and/or social context).

Moreno can be used as a euphemism but it also means just "tanned" or brunette.

In Haitian Creole the word nèg, derived from the French "nègre", refers to a dark-skinned man; it can also be used for any man, regardless of skin color, roughly like "guy" or "dude" in American English.

The Dutch "neger" is generally (but not universally) considered as neutral, or at least less negative than "zwarte" (black one).

In German, Neger used to be considered a neutral term for black people, however gradually fell out of favour throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Nowadays it is largely considered a racist slur due to its phonetic similarity to nigger, and only used without racist connotation by members of the pre-baby boomer generation. Otherwise, the term Schwarzer (black person) is preferred or Farbiger (colored person). There is a candy traditionally called Negerkuss (literally "negro kiss"). Due to its arguably offensive character, the name is used less.

In Russiamarker the term "негр" (negr) was commonly used in the Soviet period without any negative connotation, and its use continues in this neutral sense. In modern Russian media, the word is used somewhat less frequently - "африканцы" ("Africans") or "афро-американцы"("Afro-Americans") are used instead, depending on the situation), but is still common in oral speech. The word "black" (чёрный) as a noun used as a form of address is pejorative, although it is primarily used with respect to peoples of the Caucasus, natives of Central Asia, and not black people. The word "black" (чёрный) as an adjective is also used in a neutral sense and means the same as "негр" (negr), e.g. "чёрные американцы" (black Americans), "чёрное население" (the black population), etc. Other alternatives to "негр" are темнокожий (temnokozhiy - "dark-skinned"), чернокожий (chernokozhiy - "black-skinned"). These two are used as both nouns and adjectives.

In Italymarker negro was used as a neutral term until the end of the 60's. Nowadays the word is considered offensive in some contexts; if used with a clear negative intention it may be punished by law. Neutral words to define a black or dark skinned person without risking to result offensive are nero (arcaism of negro, literally "black") or di colore (coloured - or literally 'of colour').

In Swedish neger used to be considered a neutral term for black people, but the term has gradually fell out of favour through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Today the neutral term to define a black person is svart (literally "black"). There is a Swedishmarker pastry traditionally called negerboll (literally "negro ball"). Due to its possible offensive character, the name has fallen out of favor in for example new cooking books. Though it's still used colloquially.

In Finnish it is unclear whether the word neekeri (negro) was considered a neutral term for black people. Very few — if literally any — black people lived in Finland before the 1960s. The term has gradually fallen out of favour ever since, and has been replaced with the neutral musta ("black"). In 2002 neekeri's definition was changed from perceived as derogatory by some to generally derogatory in line with ryssä (Ruskie) and hurri (Swede) in Kielitoimiston sanakirja. Also, there was a popular Finnishmarker pastry called Neekerinsuukko (lit. "negro's kiss"). The manufacturer changed the name to Suukko ("kiss") in 2001. Today, neutral terms to define a black person include musta ("black"), tumma (lit. "dark-shaded"), tummaihoinen ("dark-skinned") and mustaihoinen ("black-skinned").

In French, the positive concept of negritude was developed by the Senegalese politician Leopold Senghor.


Further reading

  • P. A. Bruce, The Plantation Negro as a Freeman, (New York, 1889)
  • Edward Ingle, The Negro in the District of Columbia, (Baltimore, 1893)
  • W. E. B. Du Bois, The Negroes of the Black Belt, (Washington, 1899)
  • B. T. Washington, The Future of the American Negro, (Boston, 1899)
  • Claude Bernard-Aubert, My Baby Is Black!, (Hollywood, 1965)
  • Montgomery Conference Proceedings, (Montgomery, 1900)
  • J. A. Tillinghast, The Negro in Africa and America, (New York, 1902)
  • T. N. Page, The Negro: The Southerner's Problem, (New York, 1904)
  • Library of Congress, List of Discussions of Negro Suffrage, (Washington, 1906)
  • W. E. Fleming, Slavery and the Race Problem in the South, (Boston, 1907)
  • Jackson and Davis, Industrial History of the Negro Race in America, (Richmond, 1908)
  • A. H. Stone, Studies in the American Race Problem, (New York, 1908)
  • W. P. Pickett, The Negro Problem, ISBN 0837122007 (New York, 1909)
  • E. G. Murphy, The Basis of Ascendency, (New York, 1909)
  • Stevenson, Race Distinctions in American Law, (New York, 1910)
  • A. B. Hart, The Southern South, (New York, 1910)
  • W. P. Livingstone, The Race Conflict, (London, 1911)
  • B. G. Brawley, A Short History of the American Negro, (New York, 1913)
  • The Negro Year Book, (Nashville, et. seq.)
  • "Negroes in the United States," in Bulletin of the United States Census Bureau, (Washington, 1915)
  • A. D. Mayo, Third Estate of the South, (Boston, 1890)
  • J. L. M. Curry, Education of the Negro since 1860, (Baltimore, 1894)
  • J. L. M. Curry, A Brief Sketch of George Peabody and a History of the Peabody Education Fund through Thirty Years, (Cambridge, 1898)
  • W. H. Thomas, The American Negro, (New York, 1901)
  • Sadler, "The Education of the Colored Race", in Special Reports of Great Britain Education Board, volume xi, (London, 1902)
  • Kate Brousseau, L'Education des nègres aux Etats-Unis, (Paris, 1904)
  • B. T. Washington, Education of the Negro, (new edition, New York, 1904)
  • W. E. B. Du Bois, "A Select Bibliography of the American Negro for General Readers," in Atlantic University Publications, (Atlanta, 1901)
  • C. B. Davenport Heredity of Skin-Color in Negro-White Crosses, Carnegie Institution Publication Number 188 (1913)
  • C. H. Vail Socialism and the Negro Problem (1903)

See also

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