The Oberlin Review

“African American” Best Term for Black Populace

Mauris Emeka, Oberlin Resident

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

To the Editors:

By way of history, until the mid 1960s, the acceptable and respectful way to refer to African Americans (or Black people) was as “colored” or “negro.” For the most part, those designations began fading away around 1965 when the Black awareness movement emerged. Careful study of our history as a people helped us all understand that instead of negroes (or colored), we were simply people of African descent — that is, African Americans. This designation (African American) has now been commonly used for just over 50 years, and without question, it increases the overall understanding of who we are as a people.

– Mauris Emeka
Oberlin resident   

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
1 Comment

One Response to ““African American” Best Term for Black Populace”

  1. Man with the Axe on March 5th, 2017 5:23 PM

    I don’t disagree with anything in your letter, but I want to comment that there are probably no perfect solutions to this naming issue. These might be quibbles but they do come up from time to time.

    For example, “African American” doesn’t accurately describe persons of African descent who are from, say, Cuba, or Jamaica, or Haiti. It doesn’t make sense to describe a Jamaican as an African American. I actually heard that done during the most recent Olympics regarding the Jamaican 4×400 relay team.

    This might be the most minor of issues, but it doesn’t accurately exclude white persons who actually come from Africa, such as John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. She is an American citizen born in Africa, so is she an African American? Yes, but no.

    It fails to distinguish between the descendants of African slaves who were born as Americans, from such persons as Barack Obama, who is the child of an African father and an American mother, and therefore does not share the more typical family back-story.

Established 1874.