In 1940, Langston Hughes wrote: "The word [negro] to colored people of high and low degree is like a red rag to a bull. Used rightly or wrongly, ironically or seriously, of necessity for the sake of realism, or impishly for the sake of comedy, it doesn't matter. The word [negro], you see, sums up for us who are colored all the bitter years of insult and struggle in America." When asked about the etymology of the word Negro most people would answer, “oh, it came from slavery,” or “that’s the word they used to keep black people down.” Some people just associate the word Negro with only slavery, not realizing where it came from or how it started. The word Negro means “A member of a dark-skinned group of peoples originally native to sub-Saharan Africa; a person of black African origin or descent; a slave (or enfranchised slave) of black African origin or descent, especially in the Southern states of America prior to the Abolition of slavery in 1865. In earlier use it also applied to other dark-skinned peoples.” The word Negro came from the Spanish meaning black person in the 15th century; in 1207 it was used as an adjective in the sense ‘black’. Negro has plural forms like Negroes and Negros. It also has different forms such as Niegro, Negro, Negroe, Nagro, and Neagro. The Portuguese used the word Negro to mean black person in 1460 at the end of the 13th century. In classical Latin Negro was Niger also meaning black. Compared to the French nègre, Italian Negro was used in 1532 as an adjective with reference to race; attested earlier in sense ‘black’ for the 13th century. The term Negro remained the standard designation throughout the 17th to 19th centuries, and was still used as a standard designation, preferred by prominent black American campaigners such as W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, until the middle years of the 20th century. With the rise of the Black Power movement in the 1960s,...
Cited: "Oxford English Dictionary ." The definitive record of the English language . Third Edition, n.d. Web. 21 Sep 2013. .
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