Little Known Black History Fact: Negroes and the Census Bureau

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  • After more than 100 years, the U.S. Census Bureau will drop the term “Negro” from its race description and use the term black or African American. The term Negro was first used in the 1900 census, replacing the word “colored.”

    The term “Negro” originated with the Portuguese and Spanish explorers who used the actual word for the color black in their language to describe Sub-Saharan African people. Although in the first census in 1790, the categories were: “free white,” “all other free persons” and “slaves.”

    In 1916, Hubert Harrison coined the term “New Negro” in a more aggressive sense. The term was used to describe a person who fought against the ideals of racism, focusing on a more race and class-consciousness among blacks. Harrison even founded the first newspaper the “New Negro Movement” in 1917. The idea was reinforced by philosopher and Harvard professor Alain Locke during 1920s and the Harlem Renaissance.

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