World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Colored or coloured[1] is a term used in the United States and the United Kingdom[1] to refer to black people (i.e., persons of sub-Saharan African ancestry; members of the African (or Negroid) race). Since the success of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the term, along with "negro" and others, has been largely replaced by "black" and (in the US) "African American". According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word colored was first used in the 14th Century.[2]

In other English-speaking countries, the term has varied meanings. In South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the name Coloured (often capitalized) refers both to a specific ethnic group of complex mixed origins, which is considered neither black nor white, and in other contexts (usually lower case) to people of mixed race, including African Americans; in neither context is its usage considered derogatory. In British usage, the term refers to "a person who is wholly or partly of non-white descent" and its use may be regarded as antiquated or offensive,[3][1] and other terms are preferable, particularly when referring to a single ethnicity.

History in North America

The term colored appeared in North America during the colonial era. In 1851, an article in The New York Times referred to the "colored population".[4] In 1863, the War Department established the Bureau of Colored Troops. The first 12 Census counts in the U.S. enumerated '"colored" people, who totaled nine million in 1900. The Census counts of 1910–1960 enumerated "negroes".

"It's no disgrace to be colored", the black entertainer Bert Williams famously observed early in the century, "but it is awfully inconvenient."[5]

"Colored people lived in three neighborhoods that were clearly demarcated, as if by ropes or turnstiles", wrote Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. about growing up in segregated West Virginia in the 1960s. "Welcome to the Colored Zone, a large stretched banner could have said... Of course, the colored world was not so much a neighborhood as a condition of existence."[6]

"For most of my childhood, we couldn't eat in restaurants or sleep in hotels, we couldn't use certain bathrooms or try on clothes in stores", recalls Gates. His mother retaliated by not buying clothes she was not allowed to try on. He remembered hearing a white man deliberately Naugahyde booth and drink Coke from a glass, but had to stand at the counter drinking from a paper cup.[6] Professor Gates also wrote about his experiences in his 1995 book, Colored People: A Memoir.[7]

In the 21st century, colored is generally not regarded as a politically correct term.[1][8][9] However, it lives on in the association name National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, generally called NAACP.[1]

In 2008 Carla Sims, communications director for the NAACP in Washington, D.C., said "the term 'colored' is not derogatory, [the NAACP] chose the word 'colored' because it was the most positive description commonly used [in 1909, when the association was founded]. It's outdated and antiquated but not offensive."[10] To date, there has not been a movement to change the name of the organization to use a different term.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ Colored Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Neilly, Herbert L. Black Pride: The Philosophy and Opinions of Black Nationalism: A Six-Volume History of Black Culture in Two Parts AuthorHouse, 2005; ISBN 1418416657, page 237 (Google Books)
  6. ^ a b Gates Jr, Henry Louis, Growing Up Colored, American Heritage Magazine, Summer 2012, Volume 62, Issue 2
  7. ^ Gates Jr, Henry Louis, Colored People: A Memoir, (Vintage, 1995), ISBN 067973919X.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.