Who Are We? Afro-Americans, Colored People or Negroes?

Shawn Leigh Alexander

in T. Thomas Fortune, the Afro-American Agitator

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780813032320
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813039084 | DOI:
Who Are We? Afro-Americans, Colored People or Negroes?

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This chapter presents the article, “Who Are We? Afro-Americans, Colored People or Negroes?” where Fortune challenged the notion that African Americans could or should be known as anything other than Afro-American. Written in response to Professor J. W. E. Bowen's assertion that “Negro” was the proper nomenclature for African Americans, Fortune argued that the race were “African in origin and American in birth” and therefore Afro-American. Moreover, he maintained that the word “Negro” was a “common noun” and if used, the race would be the object of “ridicule and contempt.” With regard to the term “colored,” Fortune dismissed it outright since it was not specific; it could be used to apply to “red, yellow and white people” as well as “black ones.” Until “we get this race designation properly fixed in language and literature,” Fortune contended, “we shall be kicked and cuffed and sneered at a common noun, sufficiently and contemptuously characterized by the vulgar term Negro.”

Keywords: African Americans; Afro-American; J. W. E. Bowen; Negro; race designation

Chapter.  2246 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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