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Africa and diaspora
Black South Africans
African American art
Apartheid in South Africa
African immigration to Europe
Atlantic slave trade
Scramble for Africa
Black Egyptian hypothesis
Historical race concepts
in the United States
Race and health
in the United States
Race and sports
Social interpretations of race
Lists of black people
v t e
Black people is a term used in certain countries, often in socially based systems of racial classification or of ethnicity, to describe persons who are perceived to be dark-skinned compared to other given populations. As such, the meaning of the expression varies widely both between and within societies, and depends significantly on context. For many other individuals, communities and countries, "black" is also perceived as a derogatory, outdated, reductive or otherwise unrepresentative label, and as a result is neither used nor defined.
Different societies apply differing criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and these social constructs have also changed over time. In a number of countries, societal variables affect classification as much as skin color, and the social criteria for "blackness" vary. For example, in North America the term black people is not necessarily an indicator of skin color or majority ethnic ancestry, but it is instead a socially based racial classification related to being African American, with a family history associated with institutionalized slavery. In South Africa and Latin America, for instance, mixed-race people are generally not classified as "black." In South Pacific regions such as Australia and Melanesia, European colonists applied the term "black" or it was used by populations with different histories and ethnic origin.
1.1 Northern Africa
1.2 South Africa
2.1 West Asia
2.1.1 Arabian Peninsula
2.2 South Asia
2.3 Southeast Asia
3.1 Western Europe
3.1.2 United Kingdom
3.2 Eastern Europe
4.1 Indigenous Australians
5 North America
5.1 United States
5.1.1 One-drop rule
6 South America
6.1.2 Race relations in Brazil
7 See also
Soldiers of the Free Arabian Legion in Greece, September 1943
The Romans interacted with and later conquered parts of Mauretania, an early state that covered modern Morocco, western Algeria, and the Spanish cities Ceuta and Melilla during the classical period. The people of the region were noted in Classical literature as Mauri, which was subsequently rendered as Moors in English.
Numerous communities of dark-skinned peoples are present in North Africa, some dating from prehistoric communities. Others are descendants of the historical Trans-Saharan trade in peoples and/or, and after the Arab invasions of North Africa in the 7th century, descendants of slaves from the Arab Slave Trade in North Africa.
In the 18th century, the Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail "the Bloodthirsty" (16721727) raised a corps of 150,000 black slaves, called his Black Guard, who coerced the country into submission.
According to Dr. Carlos Moore, resident scholar at Brazil's University of the State of Bahia, in the 21st century Afro-multiracials in the Arab world, including Arabs in North Africa, self-identify in ways that resemble multi-racials in Latin America. He claims that black-looking Arabs, much like black-looking Latin Americans, consider themselves white because they have some distant white ancestry.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had a mother who was a dark-skinned Nubian Sudanese woman and a father who was a lighter-skinned Egyptian. In response to an advertisement for an acting position, as a young man he said, "I am not white but I am not exactly black either. My blackness is tending to reddish".
Algerian footballer Yacine Brahimi
Due to the patriarchal nature of Arab society, Arab men, including during the slave trade in North Africa, enslaved more black women than men. They used more black female slaves in domestic service and agriculture than males. The men interpreted the Qur'an to permit sexual relations between a male master and his female slave outside of marriage (see Ma malakat aymanukum and sex), leading to many mixed-race children. When an enslaved woman became pregnant with her Arab master's child, she was considered as umm walad or "mother of a child", a status that granted her privileged rights. The child was given rights of inheritance to the father's property, so mixed-race children could share in any wealth of the father. Because the society was patrilineal, the children took their fathers' social status at birth and were born free.
Some succeeded their fathers as rulers, such as Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, who ruled Morocco from 1578 to 1608. He was not technically considered as a mixed-race child of a slave; his mother was Fulani and a concubine of his father. Such tolerance for black persons, even when technically "free", was not so common in Morocco. The long association of sub-Saharan peoples as slaves is shown in the term abd (Arabic: عبد,) (meaning "slave"); it is still frequently used in the Arabic-speaking world as a term for black people.
Moroccan Gnawa musician Hassan Hakmoun
In early 1991, non-Arabs of the Zaghawa tribe of Sudan attested that they were victims of an intensifying Arab apartheid campaign, segregating Arabs and non-Arabs (specifically people of sub-Saharan African descent). Sudanese Arabs, who controlled the government, were widely referred to as practicing apartheid against Sudan's non-Arab citizens. The government was accused of "deftly manipulat(ing) Arab solidarity" to carry out policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
American University economist George Ayittey accused the Arab government of Sudan of practicing acts of racism against black citizens. According to Ayittey, "In Sudan... the Arabs monopolized power and excluded blacks Arab apartheid." Many African commentators joined Ayittey in accusing Sudan of practising Arab apartheid.
Alan Dershowitz described Sudan as an example of a government that "actually deserve(s)" the appellation "apartheid." Former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler echoed the accusation.
Nelson Mandela led the ANC in the battle against South African Apartheid.
In South Africa, the period of colonization resulted in many unions and marriages between European men and African women from various tribes, resulting in mixed-race children. As the Europeans acquired territory and imposed rule over the Africans, they generally pushed mixed-race and Africans into second-class status. During the first half of the 20th century, the Afrikaaner-dominated government classified the population according to four main racial groups: Black, White, Asian (mostly Indian), and Coloured. The Coloured group included people of mixed Bantu, Khoisan, and European descent (with some Malay ancestry, especially in the Western Cape). The Coloured definition occupied an intermediary political position between the Black and White definitions in South Africa. It imposed a system of legal racial segregation, a complex of laws known as apartheid.
The apartheid bureaucracy devised complex (and often arbitrary) criteria in the Population Registration Act of 1945 to determine who belonged in which group. Minor officials administered tests to enforce the classifications. When it was unclear from a person's physical appearance whether the individual should be considered Coloured or Black, the "pencil test" was used. A pencil was inserted into a person's hair to determine if the hair was kinky enough to hold the pencil, rather than having it pass through, as it would with smoother hair. If so, the person was classified as Black. Such classifications sometimes divided families.
Sandra Laing is a South African woman who was classified as Coloured by authorities during the apartheid era, due to her skin colour and hair texture, although her parents could prove at least three generations of European ancestors. At age 10, she was expelled from her all-white school. The officials' decisions based on her anomalous appearance disrupted her family and adult life. She was the subject of the 2008 biographical dramatic film Skin, which won numerous awards.
During the apartheid era, those classed as "Coloured" were oppressed and discriminated against. But, they had limited rights and overall had slightly better socioeconomic conditions than those classed as "Black". The government required that Blacks and Coloureds live in areas separate from Whites, creating large townships located away from the cities as areas for Blacks.
In the post-apartheid era, the Constitution of South Africa has declared the country to be a 'Non-racial democracy". In an effort to redress past injustices, the ANC government has introduced laws in support of affirmative action policies for Blacks; under these they define "Black" people to include "Africans", "Coloureds" and "Asians". Some affirmative action policies favor "Africans" over "Coloureds" in terms of qualifying for certain benefits. Some South Africans categorized as "African Black" say that "Coloureds" did not suffer as much as they did during apartheid. "Coloured" South Africans are known to discuss their dilemma by saying, "we were not white enough under apartheid, and we are not black enough under the ANC (African National Congress)".
In 2008, the High Court in South Africa ruled that Chinese South Africans who were residents during the apartheid era (and their descendants) are to be reclassified as "Black people," solely for the purposes of accessing affirmative action benefits, because they were also "disadvantaged" by racial discrimination. Chinese people who arrived in the country after the end of apartheid do not qualify for such benefits.
Other than by appearance, "Coloureds" can usually be distinguished from "Blacks" by language. Most speak Afrikaans or English as a first language, as opposed to Bantu languages such as Zulu or Xhosa. They also tend to have more European-sounding names than Bantu names.
Main article: Afro-Asian
Saudi Arabian footballer Majed Abdullah, nicknamed the "Saudi Arabian Pelé"
Historians estimate that between the advent of Islam in 650CE and the abolition of slavery in the Arabian Peninsula in the mid-20th century, 10 to 18 million sub-Saharan Black Africans were enslaved by Arab slave traders and transported to the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries. This number far exceeded the number of slaves who were taken to the Americas. Several factors affected the visibility of descendants of this diaspora in 21st-century Arab societies: The traders shipped more female slaves than males, as there was a demand for them to serve as concubines in harems in the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries. Male slaves were castrated in order to serve as harem guards. The death toll of Black African slaves from forced labor was high. The mixed-race children of female slaves and Arab owners were assimilated into the Arab owners' families under the patrilineal kinship system. As a result, few distinctive Afro-Arab black communities have survived in the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries.
Genetic studies have found significant African female-mediated gene flow in Arab communities in the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries, with an average of 38% of maternal lineages in Yemen are of direct African descent, 16% in Oman-Qatar, and 10% in Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates.
Distinctive and self-identified black communities have been reported in countries such as Iraq, with a reported 1.2 million black people, and they attest to a history of discrimination. African-Iraquis have sought minority status from the government, which would reserve some seats in Parliament for representatives of their population. According to Alamin M. Mazrui et al., generally in the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries, most of those of visible African descent are still classified and identify as Arab, not black.
Main article: African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem
An African Hebrew Israelite of Jerusalem child in Dimona
About 150,000 East African and black people live in Israel, amounting to just over 2% of the nation's population. The vast majority of these, some 120,000, are Beta Israel, most of whom are recent immigrants who came during the 1980s and 1990s from Ethiopia. In addition, Israel is home to over 5,000 members of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem movement, who reside mainly in a distinct neighborhood in the Negev town of Dimona. Unknown numbers of black converts to Judaism reside in Israel, most of them converts from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.
Additionally, there are around 60,000 non-Jewish African immigrants in Israel, some of whom have sought asylum. Most of the migrants are from communities in Sudan and Eritrea, particularly the Niger-Congo-speaking Nuba groups of the southern Nuba Mountains; some are illegal immigrants.
See also: Afro-Turks
A Bashi-bazouk of the Ottoman Empire, painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1869
Beginning several centuries ago, during the period of the Ottoman Empire, tens of thousands of Black Africans were brought by slave traders to plantations and agricultural areas situated between Antalya and Istanbul in present-day Turkey. Some of their descendants remained in situ, and many migrated to larger cities and towns. Other blacks slaves were transported to Crete, from where they or their descendants later reached the İzmir area through the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923, or indirectly from Ayvalık in pursuit of work.
See also: Siddi
The Siddi are an ethnic group inhabiting India and Pakistan whose members are descended from Bantu peoples from Southeast Africa that were brought to the Indian subcontinent as slaves by Arab and Portuguese merchants. Although it is commonly believed locally that "Siddi" derives from a word meaning "black", the term is actually derived from "Sayyid", the title borne by the captains of the Arab vessels that first brought Siddi settlers to the area. In the Makran strip of the Sindh and Balochistan provinces in southwestern Pakistan, these Bantu descendants are known as the Makrani. There was a brief "Black Power" movement in Sindh in the 1960s and many Siddi are proud of and celebrate their African ancestry.
Ati woman, Philippines the Negritos are an indigenous people of Southeast Asia.
The Negritos are believed to be the first inhabitants of Southeast Asia. Once inhabiting Taiwan, Vietnam, and various other parts of Asia, they are now confined primarily to Thailand, the Malay Archipelago, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Negrito means "little black people" in Spanish (negrito is the Spanish diminutive of negro, i.e., "little black person"); it is what the Spaniards called the short-statured, hunter-gatherer autochthones that they encountered in the Philippines. Despite this, Negritos are never referred to as black today, and doing so would cause offense. The term Negrito itself has come under criticism in countries like Malaysia, where it is now interchangeable with the more acceptable Semang, although this term actually refers to a specific group. The common Thai word for Negritos literally means "frizzy hair".
See also: Afro-Spaniard
Spanish singer Concha Buika.
The term "Moors" has been used in Europe in a broader, somewhat derogatory sense to refer to Muslims, especially those of Arab or Berber descent, whether living in North Africa or Iberia. Moors were not a distinct or self-defined people. Medieval and early modern Europeans applied the name to Muslim Arabs, Berbers, Black Africans and Europeans alike.
Isidore of Seville, writing in the 7th century, claimed that the Latin word Maurus was derived from the Greek mauron, μαύρον, which is the Greek word for black. Indeed, by the time Isidore of Seville came to write his Etymologies, the word Maurus or "Moor" had become an adjective in Latin, "for the Greeks call black, mauron". "In Isidores day, Moors were black by definition
Afro-Spaniards are Spanish nationals of West/Central African descent. They today mainly come from Angola, Brazil, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. Additionally, many Afro-Spaniards born in Spain are from the former Spanish colony Equatorial Guinea. Today, there are an estimated 683,000 Afro-Spaniards in Spain.
See also: Black British
A painting of Mary Seacole.
According to the Office for National Statistics, at the 2001 census there were over a million black people in the United Kingdom; 1% of the total population described themselves as "Black Caribbean", 0.8% as "Black African", and 0.2% as "Black other". Britain encouraged the immigration of workers from the Caribbean after World War II; the first symbolic movement was those who came on the ship the Empire Windrush. The preferred official umbrella term is "black and minority ethnic" (BME), but sometimes the term "black" is used on its own, to express unified opposition to racism, as in the Southall Black Sisters, which started with a mainly British Asian constituency, and the National Black Police Association, which has a membership of "African, African-Caribbean and Asian origin".
Main article: Afro-French
Young Negro with a Bow by Hyacinthe Rigaud, ca. 1697.
While census collection of ethnic background is illegal in France, it is estimated that there are about 2.5 5 million black people residing there.
See also: Afro-Russian
As African states became independent in the 1960s, the Soviet Union offered many of their citizens the chance to study in Russia. Over a period of 40 years, about 400,000 African students from various countries moved to Russia to pursue higher studies, including many Black Africans. This extended beyond the Soviet Union to many countries of the Eastern bloc.
Due to the Ottoman slave trade that had flourished in the Balkans, the coastal town of Ulcinj in Montenegro had its own black community. As a consequence of the slave trade and privateer activity, it is told how until 1878 in Ulcinj 100 black people lived. The Ottoman Army also deployed an estimated 30,000 Black African troops and cavalrymen to its expedition in Hungary during the Austro-Turkish War of 171618.
Unknown Aboriginal woman in 1911
Indigenous Australians have been referred to as "black people" in Australia since the early days of European settlement. While originally related to skin colour, the term is used to today to indicate Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ancestry in general and can refer to people of any skin pigmentation.
Being identified as either "black" or "white" in Australia during the 19th and early 20th centuries was critical in one's employment and social prospects. Various state-based Aboriginal Protection Boards were established which had virtually complete control over the lives of Indigenous Australians where they lived, their employment, marriage, education and included the power to separate children from their parents. Aborigines were not allowed to vote and were often confined to reserves and forced into low paid or effectively slave labour. The social position of mixed-race or "half-caste" individuals varied over time. A 1913 report by Sir Baldwin Spencer states that:
the half-castes belong neither to the aboriginal nor to the whites, yet, on the whole, they have more leaning towards the former; ... One thing is certain and that is that the white population as a whole will never mix with half-castes... the best and kindest thing is to place them on reserves along with the natives, train them in the same schools and encourage them to marry amongst themselves.
After the First World War, however, it became apparent that the number of mixed-race people was growing at a faster rate than the white population, and by 1930 fear of the "half-caste menace" undermining the White Australia ideal from within was being taken as a serious concern. Dr. Cecil Cook, the Northern Territory Protector of Natives, noted that:
generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian Aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the black race, and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white.
The official policy became one of biological and cultural assimilation: "Eliminate the full-blood and permit the white admixture to half-castes and eventually the race will become white". This led to different treatment for "black" and "half-caste" individuals, with lighter-skinned individuals targeted for removal from their families to be raised as "white" people, restricted from speaking their native language and practising traditional customs, a process now known as the Stolen Generation.
Aboriginal activist Sam Watson addressing Invasion Day Rally 2007 in a "White Australia has a Black History" T-shirt
The second half of the 20th century to the present has seen a gradual shift towards improved human rights for Aboriginal people. In a 1967 referendum over 90% of the Australian population voted to end constitutional discrimination and to include Aborigines in the national census. During this period many Aboriginal activists began to embrace the term "black" and use their ancestry as a source of pride. Activist Bob Maza said:
I only hope that when I die I can say Im black and its beautiful to be black. It is this sense of pride which we are trying to give back to the aborigine [sic] today.
In 1978 Aboriginal writer Kevin Gilbert received the National Book Council award for his book Living Black: Blacks Talk to Kevin Gilbert, a collection of Aboriginal people's stories, and in 1998 was awarded (but refused to accept) the Human Rights Award for Literature for Inside Black Australia, a poetry anthology and exhibition of Aboriginal photography. In contrast to previous definitions based solely on the degree of Aboriginal ancestry, in 1990 the Government changed the legal definition of Aboriginal to include any:
person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he [or she] lives
Nigerian attendants at the 2012 National Multicultural Festival in Canberra
This nationwide acceptance and recognition of Aboriginal people led to a significant increase in the number of people self-identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The reappropriation of the term "black" with a positive and more inclusive meaning has resulted in its widespread use in mainstream Australian culture, including public media outlets, government agencies, and private companies. In 2012, a number of high-profile cases highlighted the legal and community attitude that identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is not dependent on skin colour, with a well-known boxer Anthony Mundine being widely criticised for questioning the "blackness" of another boxer and journalist Andrew Bolt being successfully sued for publishing discriminatory comments about Aboriginals with light skin.
John Caesar, nicknamed "Black Caesar", a convict and bushranger with parents born in an unknown area in Africa, was one of the first people of recent Black African ancestry to arrive in Australia.
At the 2006 Census, 248,605 residents declared that they were born in Africa. This figure pertains to all immigrants to Australia who were born in nations in Africa regardless of race, and includes White Africans.
Main article: African American
The main slave routes in the Atlantic Slave Trade.
There were eight principal areas used by Europeans to buy and ship slaves to the Western Hemisphere. The number of enslaved people sold to the New World varied throughout the slave trade. As for the distribution of slaves from regions of activity, certain areas produced far more enslaved people than others. Between 1650 and 1900, 10.24 million enslaved West Africans arrived in the Americas from the following regions in the following proportions:
Senegambia (Senegal and the Gambia): 4.8%
Upper Guinea (Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone): 4.1%
Windward Coast (Liberia and Ivory Coast): 1.8%
Gold Coast (Ghana and east of Ivory Coast): 10.4%
Bight of Benin (Togo, Benin and Nigeria west of the Niger Delta): 20.2%
Bight of Biafra (Nigeria east of the Niger Delta, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon): 14.6%
West Central Africa (Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola): 39.4%
Southeastern Africa (Mozambique and Madagascar): 4.7%
Major slave trading regions of Africa, 15th19th centuries
The variants neger and negar, derive from the Spanish and Portuguese word negro (black), and from the now-pejorative French nègre (negro). Etymologically, negro, noir, nègre, and nigger ultimately derive from nigrum, the stem of the Latin niger (black) (pronounced [ˈniɡer] which, in every other grammatical case, grammatical gender, and grammatical number besides nominative masculine singular, is nigr-, the r is trilled).
In the Colonial America of 1619, John Rolfe used negars in describing the slaves who were captured from West Africa and then shipped to the Virginia colony. Later American English spellings, neger and neggar, prevailed in a northern colony, New York under the Dutch, and in metropolitan Philadelphia's Moravian and Pennsylvania Dutch communities; the African Burial Ground in New York City originally was known by the Dutch name "Begraafplaats van de Neger" (Cemetery of the Negro); an early US occurrence of neger in Rhode Island, dates from 1625. Thomas Jefferson also used the term "black" in his Notes on the State of Virginia in allusion to the slave populations.
Harriet Tubman, an African-American fugitive slave, abolitionist, and conductor of the Underground Railroad
By the 1900s, nigger had become a pejorative word in the United States. In its stead, the term colored became the mainstream alternative to negro and its derived terms. After the African-American Civil rights movement, the terms colored and negro gave way to "black". Negro had superseded colored as the most polite word for African Americans at a time when black was considered more offensive. This term was accepted as normal, including by people classified as Negroes, until the later Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s. One well-known example is the identification by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. of his own race as "Negro" in his famous speech of 1963, I Have a Dream. During the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, some African-American leaders in the United States, notably Malcolm X, objected to the word Negro because they associated it with the long history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination that treated African Americans as second-class citizens, or worse. Malcolm X preferred Black to Negro, but later gradually abandoned that as well for Afro-American after leaving the Nation of Islam.
Since the late 1960s, various other terms for African Americans have been more widespread in popular usage. Aside from Black American, these include Afro-American (in use from the late 1960s to 1990) and African American (used in the United States to refer to Black Americans, people often referred to in the past as American Negroes).
Civil rights activist Martin Luther King.
In the first 200 years that black people were in the United States, they primarily identified themselves by their specific ethnic group (closely allied to language) and not by skin color. Individuals identified themselves, for example, as Ashanti, Igbo, Bakongo, or Wolof. However, when the first captives were brought to the Americas, they were often combined with other groups from West Africa, and individual ethnic affiliations were not generally acknowledged by English colonists. In areas of the Upper South, different ethnic groups were brought together. This is significant as the captives came from a vast geographic region: the West African coastline stretching from Senegal to Angola and in some cases from the south-east coast such as Mozambique. A new African-American identity and culture was born that incorporated elements of the various ethnic groups and of European cultural heritage, resulting in fusions such as the Black church and Black English. This new identity was based on provenance and slave status rather than membership in any one ethnic group. By contrast, slave records from Louisiana show that the French and Spanish colonists recorded more complete identities of the West Africans, including ethnicities and given tribal names.
The US racial or ethnic classification "black" refers to people with all possible kinds of skin pigmentation, from the darkest through to the very lightest skin colors, including albinos, if they are believed by others to have West African ancestry (in any discernible percentage), or to exhibit cultural traits associated with being "African American". As a result, in the United States the term "black people" is not an indicator of skin color or ethnic origin but is instead a socially based racial classification related to being African American, with a family history associated with institutionalized slavery. Relatively dark-skinned people can be classified as white if they fulfill other social criteria of "whiteness", and relatively light-skinned people can be classified as black if they fulfill the social criteria for "blackness" in a particular setting.
In March 1807, Great Britain, which largely controlled the Atlantic, declared the transatlantic slave trade illegal, as did the United States. (The latter prohibition took effect 1 January 1808, the earliest date on which Congress had the power to do so after protecting the slave trade under Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution.)
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Clarence Thomas
By that time, the majority of black people in the United States were native-born, so the use of the term "African" became problematic. Though initially a source of pride, many blacks feared the use of African as an identity would be a hindrance to their fight for full citizenship in the US. They also felt that it would give ammunition to those who were advocating repatriating black people back to Africa. In 1835, black leaders called upon Black Americans to remove the title of "African" from their institutions and replace it with "Negro" or "Colored American". A few institutions chose to keep their historic names, such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church. African Americans popularly used the terms "Negro" or "colored" for themselves until the late 1960s.
The term black was used throughout but not frequently since it carried a certain stigma. In his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. uses the terms negro fifteen times and black four times. Each time he uses black it is in parallel construction with white; for example, "black men and white men".
With the successes of the civil rights movement, a new term was needed to break from the past and help shed the reminders of legalized discrimination. In place of Negro, activists promoted the use of black as standing for racial pride, militancy, and power. Some of the turning points included the use of the term "Black Power" by Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael) and the popular singer James Brown's song "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud".
Michael Jordan, an African American basketball player.
In 1988, the civil rights leader Jesse Jackson urged Americans to use instead the term "African American" because it had a historical cultural base and was a construction similar to terms used by European descendants, such as German American, Italian American, etc. Since then, African American and black have often had parallel status. However, controversy continues over which if any of the two terms is more appropriate. Maulana Karenga argue African-American is more appropriate because it accurately articulates geographical and historical origin. Others have argued that "black" is a better term because "African" suggests foreignness, although Black Americans helped found the United States. Still others believe the term black is inaccurate because African Americans have a variety of skin tones. Some surveys suggest that the majority of Black Americans have no preference for "African American" or "Black", although they have a slight preference for "black" in personal settings and "African American" in more formal settings.
Increases in the number of black immigrants to the United States from parts of Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America since the late 20th century have raised questions about who uses the term African American. The more recent immigrants may view themselves, and be viewed, as ethno-culturally distinct from native-born Americans who descend from West African slaves.
The U.S. census race definitions says a "black" is a person having origins in any of the black (sub-Saharan) racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as "Black, African Am., or Negro" or who provide written entries such as African American, Afro-American, Kenyan, Nigerian, or Haitian. The Census Bureau notes that these classifications are socio-political constructs and should not be interpreted as scientific or anthropological. Most African Americans also have European ancestry in varying amounts; a lesser proportion have some Native American ancestry. For instance, genetic studies of African Americans show an ancestry that is on average 1718% European.
Multiracial social reformer Frederick Douglass.
From the late 19th century, the South used a colloquial term, the one-drop rule, to classify as black a person of any known African ancestry. This practice of hypodescent was not put into law until the early 20th century. Legally the definition varied from state to state. Racial definition was more flexible in the 18th and 19th centuries before the American Civil War. For instance, President Thomas Jefferson held persons who were legally white (less than 25% black) according to Virginia law at the time, but, because they were born to slave mothers, they were born into slavery, according to the principle of partus sequitur ventrem, which Virginia adopted into law in 1662.
Outside of the US, some other countries have adopted the one-drop rule, but the definition of who is black and the extent to which the one-drop "rule" applies varies greatly from country to country.
The one-drop rule may have originated as a means of increasing the number of black slaves and was maintained as an attempt to keep the white race pure. One of the results of the one-drop rule was the uniting of the African-American community. Some of the most prominent abolitionists and civil-rights activists of the 19th century were multiracial, such as Frederick Douglass, Robert Purvis and James Mercer Langston. They advocated equality for all.
Barack Obama, the first biracial President of the United States, was throughout his campaign criticized as being either "too black" or "not black enough".
The concept of blackness in the United States has been described as the degree to which one associates themselves with mainstream African-American culture, politics, and values. To a certain extent, this concept is not so much about race but more about political orientation, culture and behavior. Blackness can be contrasted with "acting white", where black Americans are said to behave with assumed characteristics of stereotypical white Americans with regard to fashion, dialect, taste in music, and possibly, from the perspective of a significant number of black youth, academic achievement.
Due to the often political and cultural contours of blackness in the United States, the notion of blackness can also be extended to non-black people. Toni Morrison once described Bill Clinton as the first black President of the United States, because, as she put it, he displayed "almost every trope of blackness". Christopher Hitchens was offended by the notion of Clinton as the first black president, noting, "Mr Clinton, according to Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, is our first black President, the first to come from the broken home, the alcoholic mother, the under-the-bridge shadows of our ranking systems. Thus, we may have lost the mystical power to divine diabolism, but we can still divine blackness by the following symptoms: broken homes, alcoholic mothers, under-the-bridge habits and (presumable from the rest of [Arthur] Miller's senescent musings) the tendency to sexual predation and to shameless perjury about same." Some black activists were also offended, claiming Clinton used his knowledge of black culture to exploit black people for political gain as no other president had before, while not serving black interests. They cite the lack of action during the Rwanda genocide and his welfare reform, which Larry Roberts said had led to the worst child poverty since the 1960s. Others cited that the number of black people in jail increased during his administration.