Negro



Negro was borrowed into English from the Spanish and Portuguese words for black long before the first Africans were sold to settlers in Virginia in 1619, and it has undergone a series of ups and downs, at least in American English, ever since. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries negro, generally spelled lowercase, was the most common label for referring to Africans or persons of African descent. After emancipation, however, black Americans tended to reject both negro and black as part of the vocabulary of slavery, with colored becoming the preferred name instead. But neither of the earlier terms disappeared, and by the end of the 19th century many black writers, such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, were using negro and black as readily as colored.    1
  The 20th century saw a dramatic rise in the use of negro. Du Bois and the NAACP led a protracted and ultimately successful nationwide campaign for its capitalization, and by the 1930s Negro was established in most of the mainstream American press as the preferred racial label for black Americans. During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, it was Negro that speakers and writers most often chose, whether they were expressing racial pride or demanding social justice. But the ensuing Black Power movement swept Negro aside in a remarkably short time, establishing black as the new term of pride. Today Negro is at best outmoded and in many contexts could well be considered offensive.    2