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Shall We Call Ourselves 'Negroes'?

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Though conceding Nubians and Puanits were "Negroid" (a Spanish and anthropology term for people with black or brown pigmentation), European Racists said Ethiopians were "Hamites"--a dark-skinned Caucasian people!!!--in their all-out attempt to avoid them being "Negroes." During their 15th century enslavement of Africans, the Portuguese used “Negro” to identify them as common personal property and also in the sense of "dark" to include the southern 2/3s of Africa.

In early 18th century America, “Negro" became more distinctive than the original colonial term “Servant.” "African Negro" referred to all persons of African descent and was a wide-spread Southern term of the 1830s for Blacks born in Africa, as opposed to a Black person born in the Americas. Wherever used by Whites, "African Negro" designated the lowest division of humankind (with Caucasians first and Mongolians second). For example, the standard minstrel portrait of the plantation Negro "emphasized traits suggested by the adjectives lazy, shiftless, improvident, superstitious, stupid, ignorant, and slow and those reflected in a fondness for watermelon, chickens, gin, crap games, razors, and big words" (Simpson, Racial Minorities p639).

The NAACP, despite "Colored" as its own choice of name when founded in 1909, launched a campaign to have "negro" given the dignity of a capital letter and accepted as the standard designation. In 1925 Alain Locke introduced the "New Negro" to indicate the striving for self-realization and acceptance in White society. By 1930, Negro had been adopted by almost every large disseminator of information in the USA. Since then the term "Negro" has had an up and down course--but mostly down, stopping among Black people around 1960. Akbar (Akbar Papers in African Psychology, p.68, 21, 100, 103, 111), by believing “Negro” to be of Greek origin and meaning something dead (“necro” and “nekro”), says to use "Negro" is an attempt to (or one is forced to) deny the philosophical basis of ones Africanity and to therefore be in a state of confusion.

Many other Black people have objected to this term for different reasons--e.g. that during slavery “Negro” identified Africans as common personal property. Still others have objected because of the distasteful connotations stemming from Europeans using the term "Negro" as part of the port of origin of where newly arriving Slaves came--e.g. Guinea Negro, Congo Negro, Gambia Negro, and Gullah Negro. To those taking the opposite position, Negro is beneficial because it accounts for all who have African ancestry but who vary widely in skin color and features. Meanwhile, outgrowths of the word "Negro" are: "Nigger," appearing in 1587 and not at first a pejorative term but simply a variant pronunciation of Negro; Negress (an African female); Negrillo (a "Bushman" on the African continent); Negrito (diminutive African persons such as those in the Philippines); Negritic (of Black people); Negroid (possessing African features and characteristics); Negritude (an aesthetic, cultural, and intellectual movement of African culture); Negrophile (usually a White person who has a filial relationship with Africans or an extreme interest in African history and culture); Negrophobia (fear of African people and African material culture) and Negro-ness (the circumstance and/or quality of being Negro).

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