What black people wanted to be called in 1906

“The New York Tribune [in 1906] made a canvass of a great many prominent Negroes and white persons to ascertain what they thought the Negro should be called…. An average of eleven Negroes out of twenty desired to be spoken of as Negroes. The other nine spurned the word as ‘insulting,’ ‘contemptuous,’ ‘degrading,’ ‘vulgar.’ Two argued for ‘Afro-American,’ two for ‘Negro-American,’ one for ‘black man,’ and one was indifferent so long as he was not called ‘Nigger’….

“E .A. Johnson, Professor of Law in Shaw University, North Carolina, said, ‘The term “Afro-American” is suggestive of an attempt to disclaim as far as possible our Negro descent, and casts a slur upon it. It fosters the idea of the inferiority of the race, which is an incorrect notion to instill into the Negro youth, whom we are trying to imbue with self-esteem and self-respect.’ ”

— From “Race Distinctions in American Law” by Gilbert Thomas Stephenson (1910) 

Edward Austin Johnson, who left North Carolina for New York a year later, had quite a productive career.

 

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