An African American is an American of predominantly, or at least partial, African descent, or rather a black American (see also below).

Most African Americans are descendants of persons brought to the Americas as slaves between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. (Those whose ancestors were brought as slaves to the Caribbean, or to Latin America, but who have come to the United States as free people, are sometimes classified as African-American, but are sometimes classified as Latin-American'\' or Caribbean-American instead. Those who have come from Africa in the 20th or 21st centuries are often identified by their country of origin—for example, Nigerian-American''.)

While the term had been used in print in some circles at least since the 1920s (and often shortened to Afro-American, the name of a famous Baltimore newspaper founded in 1892) it came to much wider use in the United States since the 1970s as the preferred term, as requested by some black Americans themselves. As of 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau identifies 12.9% of the US population as Black or African-American.

To be considered Black in the United States of America not even half of one's ancestry must be African Black. But will one fourth do, or one-eight, or less? The nation's answer to the question "Who is Black?" has long been that a Black is any person with any known African black ancestry. This definition reflects the long experience with slavery and later with Jim Crow laws. In the south of the country it became known as the one-drop rule, meaning that a single drop of "black blood" makes a person black. Some courts have called it the "traceable amount rule", and anthropologists call it the "hypo-descent rule", meaning that racially mixed persons are assigned the status of the subordinate group. This definition emerged from the American South to become the American's definition, generally accepted by whites and blacks. Since the end of legal sanctions on African Americans, some have chosen to identify themselves as "mixed" instead of African American. Additionally throughout US history, very pale persons sometimes chose to pass as white and joined the white community, oftentimes completely separating themselves from contact with darker members of their family. This at some times and places was a dangerous action, in light of anti-miscegenation laws and lynch mobs.

The term's use has sometimes been criticized as political correctness, while those who prefer the term say it is a matter of respect and politeness. However, using the word black is accepted by most, while some object to African American because it incorrectly implies that all Africans are black. In addition, even if some of one's remote ancestors descend from Africa, a dark-skinned immigrant from, for example Haiti or Cuba (or even an European nation) might prefer not to be identified as African. However, the term Negro, which was widely used until the 1960s, is today generally considered inappropriate and derogatory by many, largely because of its close association with the term nigger.

Another term to define African-American is "mulatto" and colored. The term "mulatto" was originally used to mean the offspring of a "pure African black" and a "pure European white". Although the root meaning of mulatto, in spanish or portuguese is hybrid, mulatto came to include the children of unions between whites and so called "mixed Blacks". For example, in the early twentieth century African-American activists such as Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass, who had slaves as mothers and white fathers, were referred to as mulattoes. To whatever extent their mothers were part white, these men were more than half white.

The term "quadroon" refers to a person who is one-fourth African in descent, perhaps someone born to a Caucasian mother and a mulatto father. Someone of one-eighth African descent is an "octoroon", although the term has been used loosely to refer to anyone with a small-but-present amount of Black blood. The word "méamelouc" became the standard label for someone whose ancestry was one-sixteenth sub-Saharan African, while a one-thirty-second mix was a "demi-méamelouc". The word "sang-melé" covered someone who had at least one known ancestor from Africa, but was less than one-thirty-second Black. Someone who has three-fourths Black (the progeny of a mulatto and a pure African, ideally) was traditionally called a "griffe".

The term "colored" seemed for a time to refer only to mulattoes, especially lighter ones, but later it became an euphemism for darker Blacks, even including unmixed Blacks. With widespread racial mixture, "Black" or "Negro" came to mean any slave or descendant of a slave, no matter how much mixed. Eventually in the U.S, the terms mulatto, colored, Negro, black, African-American all came to mean, people with any known black African ancestry. Mulattoes are racially mixed, to whatever degree, while the terms black, Negro, African-American and coloured include both mulattoes and unmixed blacks.

A discussion of this subject can be found in the journal article "The Politicization of Changing Terms of Self Reference Among American Slave Descendants" in American Speech v 66 is 2 Summer 1991 p. 133-46.

Table of contents
1 Slavery and oppression
2 See also
3 External Link

Slavery and oppression

People of Sub-saharan Africa, often kidnapped and sold into slavery by Arabs and other black Africans (sometimes as a result of inter-tribal warfare), were brought to the United States involuntarily by slave traders from many European nations as well as the United States from 1619 through 1806, when the trade was declared illegal. After the abolition of slavery at the end of the Civil War, African Americans continued to be denied fully equal civil rights in many jurisdictions. This happened both legally and through extra-legal cultural practices, including in the most extreme form lynchings and terrorism by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Legal barriers to equality were removed as a result of the work of the civil rights movement during the years between the end of World War II and the end of the 1960s (see Lyndon Johnson).

African Americans are seen as the most oppressed and disadvantaged racial group in North America, along with Native Americans and Hispanics. African-American males are more likely to be imprisoned or sentenced to death than any other demographic group, especially between the ages of 20 and 39. African American public school students are most likely to be assigned to special-education classes or get suspended or expelled from school. African-American female public school students make the lowest SAT scores of any demographic group.

See also

External Link