Census to stop use of term ‘Negro’

WASHINGTON — After more than a century, the Census Bureau is dropping its use of the word “Negro” to describe black Americans in surveys.

Instead of the term that came into use during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, census forms will use the more modern labels “black” or “African-American”.

The change will take effect next year when the Census Bureau distributes its annual American Community Survey to more than 3.5 million U.S. households, Nicholas Jones, chief of the bureau’s racial statistics branch, said in an interview.

He pointed to months of public feedback and census research that concluded few black Americans still identify with being Negro and many view the term as “offensive and outdated.”

“This is a reflection of changing times, changing vocabularies and changing understandings of what race means in this country,” said Matthew Snipp, a sociology professor at Stanford University, who writes frequently on race and ethnicity. “For younger African-Americans, the term ‘Negro’ harkens back to the era when African-Americans were second-class citizens in this country.”

First used in the census in 1900, “Negro” became the most common way of referring to black Americans through most of the early 20th century, during a time of racial inequality and segregation. “Negro” itself had taken the place of “colored.” Starting with the 1960s civil rights movement, black activists began to reject the “Negro” label and came to identify themselves as black or African-American.

Still, the term has lingered, having been used by Martin Luther King Jr. in his speeches. It also remains in the names of some black empowerment groups that were established before the 1960s, such as the United Negro College Fund, now often referred to as UNCF.

For the 2010 census, the government briefly considered dropping the word “Negro” but ultimately decided against it, determining that a small segment, mostly older blacks living in the South, still identified with the term. But once census forms were mailed and some black groups protested, Robert Groves, the Census Bureau’s director at the time, apologized and predicted the term would be dropped in future censuses.

When asked to mark their race, Americans are currently given a choice of five government-defined categories in census surveys, including one checkbox selection which is described as “black, African Am., or Negro.” Beginning with the surveys next year, that selection will simply say “black” or “African American.”

In the 2000 census, about 50,000 people specifically wrote in the word Negro when asked how they wished to be identified. By 2010, unpublished census data provided to the AP show that number had declined to roughly 36,000.

More in Local News

Majority of Marysville City Council seats are contested

The most closely watched race is between Mark James and Donna Wright.

500 tires go up in flames at a store south of Everett

There were no injuries. And it was nowhere near as bad as that months-long tire fire in 1984.

Inclusion super important to Monroe High senior

Sarah Reeves worked to make homecoming more representative of the student population.

A pot deal between teens leaves them injured, facing charges

Police found out about the incident when both ended up at the same hospital that night.

Funds up for council vote would aid conservation district

District stands to receive an extra $1 million each year, if the County Council gives its approval.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Lake Stevens man injured by 50-foot fall near Leavenworth

The rescuers had to tie in to keep from falling due to the steep rugged terrain.

‘Welcome to fall:” Wet, windy weather in the forecast

The Weather Service is warning people to prepare for power outages, possible flooding and falling trees.

Paul Brandal, 64, walks with his 25-year-old bison, “Wobble,” across a portion of his 70-acre farm between Ebey Slough and Sunnyside Boulevard Monday afternoon. “He just knows me,” Brandle says about the 1,800-pound animal. “He follows me around like a puppy.” (Dan Bates / The Herald)
From a wobbly calf to 1,00-pound behemoth

Wobble, a huge, shaggy bison, had a precarious start in life but now is the last of his herd.

Most Read