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Designations for Colored Folk (1944)

H. L. Mencken

Source: American Speech, vol. 19 (1944), pp. 161-74; reprinted in Allen Dundes, ed., Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel: Readings in the Interpretation of African American Folklore (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1973): 142-155.


When the New York Times announced in an editorial on March 7, 1930, that it would capitalize the word Negro thereafter, there were loud hosannahs from the Aframerican intelligentsia, for (with an exception to be noted) they seemed to be convinced that lifting the word out of lower case would also give a leg up to its bearers. The decision of the Times was inspired, according to its own account, by Major Robert Russa Moton, then principal of Tuskegee Institute, but he was by no means the originator of the movement, nor was the Times the first American newspaper to yield. The true pioneer seems to have been Lester Aglar Watson, a colored journalist hailing from St. Louis, who, after a varied career on both Negro and white newspapers, was made minister to Liberia in 1935. "In 1913," he says of himself in Who's Who in America, "with cooperation of Associated Press, started movement for capitalization of N in Negro." He does not give the name of the first newspaper to be fetched, but by the time the Times succumbed there were already some important ones in his corral--among them, the New York World, Herald Tribune and Telegram, the Chicago Herald-Examiner (Hearst), the Christian Science Monitor of Boston, the Springfield (Mass.) Republican, and the Brooklyn Eagle. Moreover, he had made some converts in the South, even in the Deep South--for example, the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser (then edited by the late Grover Hall), the Durham (N.C.) Sun, and the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger. Yet more, he had persuaded a number of national magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly, the Nation, the New Republic, the American Mercury, and Time. Finally, he had rounded up several government agencies--for example, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Education and the whole Department of Commerce. But the surrender of the Times was hailed as a crucial victory in the long war, and when it was followed three years later by that of the Style Manual of the Government Printing Office, which sets the style for the Congressional Record and is generally followed by other government publications, there was a renewal of the rejoicing.

The one dissentient was George S. Schuyler, columnist since 1924 for the Pittsburgh Courier, contributor to many white magazines, author of "Black-No-More," father of the Wunderkind, Philippa Schuyler, and the best Negro journalist, and by long odds, ever heard of. On March 15, 1930, only a week after the Times had come into camp, he broke out in the Courier with the following:

Mr. Schuyler returned to the subject many times afterward. Thus on July 17, 1937:

And again on March 20, 1943:

But Mr. Schuyler's iconoclastic position got no support from the general run of American colored folk, nor from their accepted fuglemen and haruspices. Even so generally non-conforming a spokesman of the race as the late Dr. Kelly Miller was moved, in 1937, to argue for Negro in Opportunity, the organ of the National Urban League:1

In the first days of slavery, Dr. Miller said, the slaves were called simply blacks, and even after interbreeding lightened their color the term continued in use "in a generic sense." Then came African, which "was accepted by the race in the early years, after it first came to self-consciousness, "and still survives in the titles of some of its religious organizations, e.g., the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. (This according to the Dictionary of American English, was during the first half of the Eighteenth Century.) A bit later darky or darkey began to be used, and "at first it carried no invidious implication." (The DAE's first example is dated 1775.) Then came Africo-American (1835 or thereabout), but it was too clumsy to be adopted.3 After the Civil War freedman was in wide use, but it began to die out before the end of the 70's.4 In 1880 Afro-American was invented by T. Thomas Fortune, editor of the New York Age, and it still survives, but only in rather formal usage.5 "Mr. Fortune," said Dr. Miller, "repudiated the word Negro because of the historical degradation and humiliation attached to it." At some undetermined time after 1900 Sir Harry Johnston, the English African explorer and colonial administrator, shortened Afro-American to Aframerican, but the latter has had but little vogue.6 After rehearsing, in his article, the history of all these appellations, Dr. Miller turned to Negro and colored, and proceeded to discuss their respective claims to general adoption. The latter, he concluded, could not qualify, for it was properly applicable to any person not white, including Chinese, Japanese, Indians and Mexicans, and had been so applied in various State laws, and even, at least by inference, in Federal population statistics.7 Thus his reasoning:

Dr. Miller admitted that "such terms as colored lady, colored gentleman and colored society" sounded "more polite than the corresponding Negro equivalents," but argued that the preference for them probably grew out of "that to which the ear is accustomed." He went on:

Dr. Miller, going further than most other advocates of Negro, was also willing to accept Negress, which is intolerably offensive to most high-toned colored folk. Here the iconoclastic Schuyler agreed with him, saying,

But despite this agreement of two high Negro authorities, the Atlantic Monthly got into hot water when, in October, 1935, it used Negress in an editorial reference to a colored contributor, Miss Juanita Harrison, author of a serial entitled "My Great, Wide, Beautiful World." Moreover, it added to its offense by speaking of the lady by her given name alone, without the Miss.9 Protests came in promptly, and one of them, from Isadore Cecilia Williams, of Washington, was printed in the issue for December, along with an editorial explanation. I take the following from Miss (or Mrs.?) Williams's letter:

To this the editor of the Atlantic replied somewhat lamely that he "really did not know that the word Negress carried a derogatory connotation." "I suppose," he went on, "that the feeling must come from the analogy of the suffix -ess being used throughout the animal kingdom." In further confession and avoidance he cited the parallel terms, Jewess and Quakeress, conveniently overlooking the fact (maybe also unknown to him) that the former is vastly disliked by Jews. As to the use of her simple given-name in referring to Miss Harrison he said:

Other Negro publicists have proposed various substitutes for any designation pointing directly to color, among them race and group. According to Dr. Miller, racemen was suggested in 1936 or thereabout by Robert L. Abbot, editor of the Chicago Defender. Dr. Miller himself rejected it as equally applicable to a white man or an Indian and predicted that it would "fall under the weight of its own ineptness." It has, however, survived more or less, and group is really flourishing. Many of the Negro newspapers use our group, group man, group leader, etc. Some of them also use such terms as brown-skinned and sepia to get away from the forthright but usually inaccurate black, and in 1944 there was a Sepia Miss America contest operated by a committee in Boston.10

At present the surviving objection to Negro, now capitalized by nearly all American publications, takes two forms. First, there is a campaign against using it whenever a person of color comes into the news, on the ground that calling attention to his race is gratuitous, and usually damaging to the other members of it. Second, there is resentment of the unhappy fact that the word is frequently mispronounced, and tends to slide into the hated nigger. In the South it is commonly heard as nigrah,11 and not only from white lips. Indeed, nigrah is also used by Northern Negroes, including some of the most eminent, as witness the following protest from a reader of the Pittsburgh Courier.

Worse, even the abhorred nigger is in wide use among the colored people themselves, especially on the lower levels. Said Lucius Harper, managing editor of the Chicago Defender, in 1939:

Nigger is so bitterly resented by the more elegant members of the race that they object to it even in quotations, and not a few of their papers spell it n----r when necessity forces them to use it.14 On March 4, 1936, Garnet C. Wilkinson, first assistant superintendent of schools of Washington, in charge of the Negro public schools of the District of Columbia, actually recommended to Superintendent F. W. Ballou that Opportunity, for years a recognized leader among Negro magazines, be barred from the schools of the District on the ground that it used "the opprobrious term N------ in its publications on Negro life." When news of this recommendation reached Elmer A. Carter, the editor, he naturally protested, and under date of March 11 received the following from Dr. Wilkinson:

Mr. Carter replied to this curious communication under date of March 17, as follows:

Nothing came of this effort to purge Opportunity of nigger. I am told by Lester B. Granger, executive secretary of the National Urban League, that it is still used whenever required by "a faithful description of real life situations," though "where it adds nothing to the context it is sometimes eliminated." The same failure marked an effort to work up a boycott against Noxzema, a lotion popular among Negroes as among whites, because the credit manager of the manufacturing company had used the phrase nigger in the woodpile in a dunning circular to slow-paying druggists. This boycott was launched by an organization calling itself the National Commission on Negro Work, affiliated with the International Workers Order, and for a while a committee collected signatures to a paper demanding that the company "apologize publicly," discharge the offending credit manager, and "open job opportunities for Negroes in your plant." Every signer was invited to make a contribution to "a collection to defray costs of promotion only" and so deliver "a sock at Hitlerism," but the company refused to be intimidated, and nothing came of the boycott. Nor did any greater success attend an attack by the same National Commission on the A. & P. stores for selling a Niggerhead stovepolish. But a year before this the New York Amsterdam News apparently had better luck with a crusade against the American Tobacco Company for offering a Niggerhead smoking-tobacco, for on March 20, 1943 the Nation announced that the brand would be withdrawn. Nigger in the woodpile is traced by the DAE to 1861, and is defined by it as "a concealed or inconspicuous but highly important fact, factor or catch in an account, proposal, etc." Of the six examples that it gives, two are from the Congressional Record. Niggerhead, in the more refined form of negrohead, is traced to 1833, and defined as "a low grade of strong, dark-colored tobacco." It was used by Huckleberry Finn in contradistinction to store-tobacco. Niggerhead, in the sense of a piece of extraordinarily hard rock, goes back to 1847, and has been used in a report of the Smithsonian; it also appears in "Chicago Poems" by Carl Sandburg, 1916.

Negro is not, of course, an Americanism. It is simply the Spanish and Portuguese word for "black," and was borrowed by the English during the sixteenth century. By 1587 a Northern English form, neger, had appeared, and it was from this that both the Irish naygur and the English-American nigger were derived. The New English Dictionary's first example of nigger comes from a poem by Robert Burns, published in 1786. In the United States, in the spelling of niger, the Dictionary of American English traces it to Samuel Sewell's diary, 1700. But after that the DAE offers no example until the nineteenth century. Nigger-boy is traced to 1825, nigger-wench to 1837, nigger-regiment to 1863, nigger-talk to 1866 (nigger alone, meaning the manner of speech of Negroes, goes back to 1825), niggerish to 1825, nigger-killer to 1856, nigger-luck (meaning good luck) to 1851, and nigger-heaven (the top gallery in a theatre) to 1878. Nigger-stealer, once a term of opprobrium comparable to the isolationist of today, is not listed, and neither are nigger-lover, nigger-job, nigger-mammy and nigger-gal. There are many other derivatives. I have mentioned niggerhead in the sense of a lump of hard rock, and in that of coarse chewing and smoking tobacco. It is also used to designate the common black-eyed Susan, a variety of greenbrier, and one of cactus. After the Civil War it was used for a person in favor of full political equality for Negroes. There are a nigger-duck, a nigger-goose, a nigger-weed, and several kinds of nigger-fish. To nigger off means to divide a log into convenient lengths by burning through it, to nigger out means to exhaust the soil by working it without fertilizer, and to nigger it means to live meagrely. A nigger is a device used in sawmills to turn a heavy log, and also a defect in an electrical conductor, causing a short circuit. Niggertoe is a dialect name, in rural New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, for a Brazil nut, and was once used to designate a variety of potato. To work like a nigger is traced by the DAE to 1836, and to let off a little nigger to 1828. The use of niggerhead to signify a hard stone was no doubt suggested by the old American belief that the skull of the Negro is extraordinarily thick, and hence able to stand shard blows without cracking. That superstition is accompanied by one to the effect that the shins of the colored folk are extremely tender. The notion that they have an inordinate fondness for watermelon belongs to the same category. This last is so far resented by high-toned Negroes that they commonly avoid Cirtullus vulgaris in their diet as diligently as the more elegant sort of German-Americans used to avoid Limburger cheese.17

Before 1890, according to Dr. Miller, the Census Bureau "sought to sub-divide the Negro group into blacks, mulattoes, quadroons and octoroons," but found it "impossible to make such sharp discriminations, since these divisions ran imperceptibly into one another." It was upon the advice of Booker T. Washington that it began calling all colored persons of African blood Negroes. Mulatto, quadroon and octoroon have now almost disappeared from American speech. Of them, only octoroon seems be an Americanism. Mulatto, which comes from the Spanish and Portuguese mulato, signifying a young mule, and hence a half breed, is traced by the NED in English use to 1595. Originally, the word meant the immediate offspring of a Negro and a white person, but by the beginning of the eighteenth century it was being applied to anyone of mixed white and Negro blood. In the early chronicles and travel-books it was spelled in a dozen different ways, some of them quite fantastic, e.g., malatta, melatto, muletto and mulattoe. Quadroon is a loan from the quateron of the Louisiana French, who borrowed it in turn from the Spanish cuarterón. The NED's first example of quarteron is dated 1707; Thomas Jefferson used it in that form in 1793. In the form of quatroon it goes back to 1748 in English usage and to 1808 in American, and in the form of quadroon to 1796 and 1832 respectively. Octoroon is apparently more recent. There is no recorded trace of it before 1861, when Dion Boucicault used it in the title of a play. Griffe, another loan from the French of Louisiana, is now obsolete. It signified, according to Miss Grace E. King, quoted by the DAE,18 a mixed breed one degree lighter than an octoroon, the series being mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, griffe.

The irreverent Schuyler, who does not hesitate to refer to the members of his race, in his column in the Pittsburgh Courier, as Senegambians, tar-brushed folk and so on, frequently discusses the opprobrious names that have been applied to them, e.g., darkey, coon, shine, smoke, woolly-head, dinge and boogie, In 1936, when the Baltimore Afro-American started a holy war against "My Old Kentucky Home" because darkey occurs in it, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People denounced the Rev. Charles E. Coughlin for using it in a radio speech, he said:

Coon, though it is now one of the the most familiar designations for a Negro, apparently did not come into general use in that sense until the 80's; Thornton's first example is dated 1891 and the DAE's 1887.20 For many years before that time the term had been used in the sense of a loutish white man, and in Henry Clay's day it had designated a member of the Whig party. It came originally, of course, from the name of the animal, Procyon lotor, which seems to have been borrowed from the Algonquian early in the seventeenth century, and was shortened from raccoon to coon before 1750. "How the Negro Got the Name of Coon" is the title of one of the stories in a collection of Maryland folk-lore published by Mrs. Walter R. Bullock, Jr., in 1898,21 but all it shows is that the Negro who is the chief figure called himself a coon, and that the name was afterward applied to others. Why he did so is not explained, nor when. The popularity of the term seems to have got a lift from the vast success of Ernest Hogan's song, "All Coons Look Alike to Me," in 1896. Hogan, himself a colored man, used it without opprobrious intent, and was amazed and crushed by the resentment it aroused among his people. Says Edward B. Marks in They All Sang:22

"All Coons Look Alike to Me" was followed in 1899 by "Every Race Has a Flag But the Coon," by Heelan and Helf, two white men, and in 1900 by "Coon, Coon, Coon," by two others, Jefferson and Friedman, and from that time forward coon was firmly established in the American vocabulary.24 The history of the other more or less opprobrious synonyms for Negro is mainly obscure. The DAE does not list boogie and its congeners, but reports that booger is an Americanism, traced to 1866, for a bogy. In 1891 a writer in Harper's Magazine,25 quoted by the DAE, defined boogahhole as "the hiding place of cats and of children fleeing from justice" and of boogars or boogahs, "whatever these mysterious beings may be." It is possible that the suggestion of darkness developed boogie from booger or boogah. The latter form, however, hints at a Southern variant of bogy or bogey, which has been traced in England by the NED, in the sense of the devil, to 1836, in the sense of a goblin to 1857, and in that of a bugbear to 1865. In Baltimore, in my childhood, boogieman was one of the names of the devil.

Buffalo as a designation for a Negro is not listed by the DAE, but it gives the word as used to designate a North Carolina Unionist during the Civil War; it has also been applied to the people of seaboard North Carolina in general. From the early eighteenth century down to 1880 or thereabout Cuffy was a generic name for a Negro, comparable to Pat for an Irishman. George Philip Krapp says in The English Language in America26 that "it is said to be derived from Dutch Koffi, in Guiana a common name for Negroes and by custom applied to anyone born on Friday." The DAE calls it "of African origin" and traces it to 1713. It had a rival in Sambo, which apparently arose, not in the United States, but in England. The DAE traces it to 1748 there and to 1806 here. In my boyhood Cuffy had disappeared and Sambo was being supplanted by Rastus.27 During the same era Liza or Lize was the common name for a colored girl. The DAE omits dinge and lists dinkey only in the adjectival sense of small, trifling. Dinkey, in the Baltimore of my nonage, meant a colored child. Webster's New International, 1934, lists dinge, but omits dinkey in the sense here considered. Kink shows an obvious allusion to the Negro's hair; the DAE says that kinky, as applied to it, is an Americanism, and traces it to 1844. When, in 1936, Cab Calloway, the Negro musician, used kinky-head in a broadcast, he was violently belabored by the radio critic of one of the Negro weeklies.28 Woolly-head is first found by the DAE in Cooper's The Prairie in 1827; it was also used by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Dred: a Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp in 1856. During the Civil War era the term was applied, like buffalo, to Unionists.

Moke is traced by the DAE to 1856, but the word was used in England before this in the sense of a donkey. An amateur lexicographer calling himself Socrates Hyacinth, writing in 1869,29 sought to derive it "from Icelandic mockvï, darkness," and called it "a word chiefly in use among the Regulars stationed in Texas and in the Territories." He added that it also had "Cymric affinities, and was probably brought into currency by Welsh recruits who have occasionally drifted into the Army from New York City." This suggestion of a possible Welsh origin was supported by an anonymous writer in the London Daily Mirror on November 28, 1938, who said that the etymology "Which receives the greatest expert support derives moke from the Welsh gipsy moxio or moxia, a donkey." "Moxio," he continued, "existed some fifty years before the first recorded instance, in 1848, of moke. Moreover, about 1839 somebody of the name of Brandon records moak as a cant word of gipsy origin, and, at that time, mainly gipsy use." The NED calls moke "of unknown origin," and Webster's New International marks it "origin uncertain." Ernest Weekley, in his Etymological Dictionary of Modern English,30 suggests that it is "perhaps from some proper name (?Moggy) applied to the ass," and says that Mocke, Mok, Mog and Mug "all occur as personal names in the thirteenth century and survive in the surnames Mokes and Moxon." Moke was thrown into competition with coon in 1899 by the success of "Smoky Mokes," a popular song by Holzmann and Lind, but is now heard only seldom. Pickaninny, in the sense of a Negro child, is not an Americanism. It was in use in England so long ago as 1657, whereas the DAE's first American example is dated 1800. The English prefer the spelling piccaninny; the word, in the past, was variously spelled piccanini, pickoninnie, pick'ny, piccanin and picannin. It appears to be derived from the Cuban Spanish piquinini, meaning a small child, and it was taken into English in the British West Indies. It is used in South Africa precisely as we use it, but is commonly spelled piccanin. In Australia it designates a child of the aborigines, and has there produced a derivative, piccaninny-daylight, signifying dawn.31 In the Baltimore of my youth pickaninny was not used invidiously, but rather affectionately. So, indeed, was tar-pot, also signifying a Negro child.

The DAE does not list such vulgar synonyms for Negro as ape, eight-ball, jazzbo, jigabo (with the variants, jibagoo, jig, zigabo, zigaboo, zig), jit, seal, shine, skunk, smoke, snowball, spade, squasho and Zulu. Crow is traced to 1823, when it was used by Cooper in The Pioneers, the first of the Leatherstocking tales. Whether it suggested Jim Crow or was itself suggested by Jim Crow I do not know. The DAE's first example of Jim Crow is dated 1838, but that example includes the statement that "'Zip Coon' and 'Jim Crow' are hymns of great antiquity." The DAE says, however, that Thomas D. Rice's song and dance, "Jim Crow," was written in 1832.32 The verb phrase, to jump Jim Crow, appeared a year later. By 1838 Jim Crow had become an adjective and it was so used by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852; of late it has also become a verb. The DAE's first example of Jim Crow car is dated 1861; of Jim Crow school, 1903; of Jim Crow bill, 1904; of Jim Crow law, 1904, and of Jim Crow regulations, 1910. On April 10, 1943, the Nation used Jap Crow in the title of an article on the internment of the Japanese of the Pacific Coast, but this Winchellism did not catch on. Eight-ball, without doubt, is derived from the game of pool, which is played with fifteen numbered and vari-colored balls, No. 8 being black. The DAE lists blueskin as an early synonym for Negro. It occurs, in Cooper's The Spy, 1821, but had become obsolete before the Civil War. In Baltimore, in the 80's of the last century, the German-speaking householders, when they had occasion to speak of Negro servants in their presence, called them die blaue. In the 70's die schwarze had been used, but it was believed that the Negroes had fathomed it. In the Bronx, so I am informed by a correspondent, the Jewish housekeepers use die gelbe, with ein gelber in the singular. Without doubt gelbe has failed of its purpose as miserably as blaue, for the colored folk always penetrate the stratagems of the Caucasian, and chuckle over them in a sad but amiable manner.

NOTES

1."Negroes or Colored People?" May, 1937, pp. 142-46.

2.Here Dr. Miller slipped. The New English Dictionary says that Jew was "originally a Hebrew of the kingdom of Judah."

3.It survives, however, in the name of the Africo-American Presbyterian, a weekly published since 1879 by the Negro Presbyterian Church at Charlotte, N. C.

4.Many other terms, now obsolete, were used in that era, e.g., the abbreviation f.m.c. (free man of color). Carl Sandburg says in his Abraham Lincoln: the War Years (New York, 1939), vol. II, p. 137; "Demurrings arose to Lincoln's progressions in styling the Negroes, in 1859, negroes; in 1860, colored men; in 1861, intelligent contrabands; in 1862, free Americans of African descent." Contraband came into use in 1861, when General Benjamin F. Butler issued a proclamation declaring slaves owned by Confederates contraband of war, but it was forgotten by 1870.

5.It is the name of a Negro newspaper of wide circulation and influence, published in Baltimore with local editions in other places. The readers of the paper in Baltimore call it the Afro, and it so refers to itself. "It is interesting to note," said Dr. Miller, "that the Africo-American Presbyterian and the Afro-American, which stress their names in heavy type at the head of their papers, rarely use these terms in their news service or editorial columns."

6.It was preceded, and probably suggested, by Amerindian, a name for the American Indian coined by Major J. W. Powell, of the Bureau of American Ethnology, in 1899. Amerindian was quickly displaced by Amerind, which is still in use. In South Africa a similar quest for a sonorous designation for themselves has been carried on by the natives. "Their latest choice," said J. A. Rogers in Sex and Race (New York, 1941). p. 131, "is Eur-African." But this is objected to by the whites, who say that they are the only real Eur-African. The term Afrikander, which might well designate the blacks, is already monopolized by the whites. In Liberia the descendants of returned American slaves who constitute the ruling caste of the country used to call themselves Americo-Liberians to distinguish their group from the general mass of blacks. But I am informed by Mr. Ben Hamilton, Jr., formerly of the Liberian consulate in Los Angeles, that this compound is now out of favor. He says: "Because of the great amount of intermarriage between the descendants of colonists to Liberia from America with aborigines of the Negro republic, and because of a wave of nationalism that is sweeping the country, Liberians consider the term Americo-Liberian opprobrious as reflecting upon their [ancestors'] condition of servitude in the States. Hence they prefer to be called civilized or Monrovian Liberians to distinguish them from the natives of the hinterland, who are generally called by their tribal names." Monrovia is the capital of Liberia, and the home of virtually all its noblesse.

7.Mexicans were not formally classified as white until the 1940 Census. Before that they were lumped with "other races." Very few of them, of course, are actually white, even in part. The change was made in furtherance of the Good Neighbor policy.

8."Views and Reviews," Pittsburgh Courier, July 17, 1937.

9.Some of the Negro papers carry their liking for this honorific so far that they apply it to lady criminals. I take the following, for example, from the New York Amsterdam News, Jan. 15, 1944, p. 8-B: "On the eve of her trial for fatally bludgeoning another woman to death [sic] last April, Beatrice Watson, 23, avoided a possible life term in prison last week by pleading guilty to second degree manslaughter. As a result Miss Watson will be faced with a penalty of not more than 15 years."

10."Miss America Contest Plans Given to Public," by Paul Davis, New York Amsterdam News, March 18, 1944, p. 6-A.

11.In The Field, the Dungeon and the Escape, by Albert D. Richardson (Hartford, Conn., 1865), p. 37, a Southern planter was made to use nig-roe. I have heard niggero, but only in sportive use.

12.This protest appeared May 15, 1943, in ``Yes! we All Talk," a philological column conducted by Marcus H. Boulware. Mr. Boulware, in a note appended to the letter, said that "ne in Negro should rime with see, and gro with grow."

13.Quoted in "Journalistic Headache," by R. E. Wolseley, Ken, March 9, 1939.

14.For example, I find the following on p. 1 of the Pittsburgh Courier, Nov. 1, 1941, in a dispatch from Due West, S.C., reporting the beating of a colored pastor, the Rev. B. J. Glover, Jr., "because law officers of this prejudice-ridden town thought he was too uppity for a N----r." Here, it will be noted the offending word was given a capital N. In the same dispatch occurred the following: "Another officer said, Let's teach that D...N..... a lesson, and struck Rev. Glover."

15.These divisions are made up of Negro elementary and high schools.

16.This correspondence was published in full in Opportunity, April, 1936, pp. 126-27.

17.From "Journalistic Headache," by R. E. Wolseley, already cited, I take the following: ' The sports editor of a small Midwestern daily learned this unforgettably one Fall when he jokingly suggested that a good way to stop Ozzie Simmons, the great Negro football star from Iowa, was to roll a number of big juicy watermelons out on the field.... Telephone calls, letters and personal visits from the Negroes of the city made him realize he had hurt some feelings. A formal protest--a petition--from the local Inter-Racial Council brought the matter to the attention of the newspaper's managing editor."

18.New Orleans: The Place and the People (New York, 1895), p.333.

19.A Negro historian, already mentioned. He has published a number of valuable books on the history of his people, and accumulated an enormous store of illustrative material.

20.Walter D. Edmonds says in American Notes and Queries, May, 1941, p.23, that "Zip Coon, the blackface song, was being sung in 1834," but it apparently did not lead to the application of coon to Negroes.

21.Journal of American Folk-Lore, Jan-March, 1898, 13, 14.

22.New York, 1935, p.91.

23.The colored composer of "Under the Bamboo Tree," "Oh, Didn't He Ramble," "Lazy Moon," and other songs of the 90's, and also of the Negro anthem, "Lift Every voice and Sing." The words of some of his songs were written by his brother, James Weldon Johnson (1871-1933), the best poet the race has yet produced.

24.In South Africa the term is sometimes used by the newspapers to designate a black native, apparently without derogatory intent. The following is from "Stilt-Walker of Serowe," by Norman Howell, Cape Times (Cape Town), Aug. 22, 1936: "Why is stilt-walking a common thing among the coons of the Cape?" In the Virgin Islands, formerly under the Danish flag, the blacks are called goons or goonies. In "Lazy Islands Come to Life," Baltimore Sunday Sun, March 22, 1942, Lawrence H. Baker suggested that the g may be "a gutteralizing of the c in coon, arising out of the Danes' attempts to pronounce the latter word."

25.Oct., 1891, p. 825.

26.New York, 1925, vol. I, p. 256.

27.The once very popular song, "Rastus on Parade," by Kerry Mills, was published in 1896.

28.The episode is recorded by Schuyler in the Pittsburgh Courier, Nov. 7, 1936.

29."South-Western Slang," Overland-Monthly, Aug. His article is reprinted in full in The Beginnings of American English, by M. M. Mathews (Chicago, 1931), pp. 151-63.

30.New York, 1921, p. 942.

31.A Popular Dictionary of Australian Slang, by Sidney J. Baker (second ed., Melbourne, 1943), p. 58. See also Australian English, by Edward E. Morris (London, 1898), p. 350.

32.Rice (1808-1860) was a comedian, playwright and song-writer, and "Jim Crow" was only one of his songs that became popular. He is not to be confused with Dan Rice (1822-1900), an acrobat, circus clown and temperance orator.


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