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.
The U.S. Census Bureau considered changing the term in 2010 but said that there was still a significant amount of people in the south that identified with Negro vs. black or African American. However, after further and more recent investigation, the bureau found that a growing number of people find the term “Negro” offensive, even equating it to the slang and historical N-word.
While the term Negro is rarely used in describing African Americans today, the description is still used in proper titles such as the United Negro College Fund.