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Black people is a term used in certain countries, often in socially based systems of or of ethnicity, to describe persons who are perceived to be compared to other populations. As such, the meaning of the expression varies widely both between and within societies, and depends significantly on context. For many other individuals, communities and countries, "black" is also perceived as a derogatory, outdated, reductive or otherwise unrepresentative label, and as a result is neither used nor defined.

Different societies apply differing criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and these have also changed over time. In a number of countries, societal variables affect classification as much as skin color, and the social criteria for "blackness" vary. In the , "black" was historically equivalent with "", a general term for non-European peoples. In South Africa and Latin America, mixed-race people are generally not classified as "black". In other regions such as , settlers applied the term "black" or it was used by local populations with different histories and ancestral backgrounds.



Northern Africa

The interacted with and later conquered parts of , an early state that covered modern , western , and the Spanish cities and during the classical period. The people of the region were noted in as , which was subsequently rendered as in English.

Numerous communities of dark-skinned peoples are present in , some dating from prehistoric communities. Others are descendants of the historical in peoples and/or, and after the Arab invasions of North Africa in the 7th century, descendants of slaves from the in North Africa.

In the 18th century, the Moroccan Sultan "the Warrior King" (1672–1727) raised a corps of 150,000 black soldiers, called his .

According to Dr. , resident scholar at Brazil's University of the State of Bahia, in the 21st century Afro-multiracials in the world, including Arabs in North Africa, self-identify in ways that resemble multi-racials in . He claims that black-looking Arabs, much like black-looking , consider themselves white because they have some distant white ancestry.

Egyptian President had a mother who was a dark-skinned Nubian woman and a father who was a lighter-skinned . In response to an advertisement for an acting position, as a young man he said, "I am not white but I am not exactly black either. My blackness is tending to reddish".

Due to the nature of Arab society, Arab men, including during the slave trade in North Africa, enslaved more black women than men. They used more black female slaves in domestic service and agriculture than males. The men interpreted the to permit sexual relations between a male master and his female slave outside of marriage (see ), leading to many children. When an enslaved woman became pregnant with her Arab master's child, she was considered as umm walad or "mother of a child", a status that granted her privileged rights. The child was given rights of inheritance to the father's property, so mixed-race children could share in any wealth of the father. Because the society was , the children took their fathers' social status at birth and were born free.

Some succeeded their fathers as rulers, such as Sultan , who ruled from 1578 to 1608. He was not technically considered as a mixed-race child of a slave; his mother was and a of his father.

In early 1991, non-Arabs of the Zaghawa tribe of attested that they were victims of an intensifying Arab campaign, segregating Arabs and non-Arabs (specifically, people of descent). Sudanese Arabs, who controlled the government, were widely referred to as practicing apartheid against Sudan's non-Arab citizens. The government was accused of "deftly manipulat(ing) Arab solidarity" to carry out policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

economist accused the Arab government of Sudan of practicing acts of racism against black citizens. According to Ayittey, "In Sudan... the Arabs monopolized power and excluded blacks – Arab apartheid." Many African commentators joined Ayittey in accusing Sudan of practising Arab apartheid.


In the , the native populations kept "" slaves. Most of these captives were of extraction, and were either purchased by the Tuareg nobles from slave markets in the or taken during raids. Their origin is denoted via the word (sing. Ébenher), which alludes to slaves that only speak a language. These slaves were also sometimes known by the borrowed term Bella.

Similarly, the autochthones of the observed a class system consisting of high and low castes. Outside of these traditional tribal boundaries were "Negro" slaves, who were drawn from the surrounding areas.

Horn of Africa

In parts of the , the local (Hamitic-Semitic) speaking populations have long adhered to a construct similar to that of the , and . In and , the slave classes mainly consisted of individuals of Nilotic and origin who were collectively known as and Adone (both denoting "Negro"). These captives and others of analogous morphology were distinguished as tsalim barya in contrast with the Afroasiatic-speaking nobles or saba qayh ("red men"). The earliest representation of this tradition dates from a seventh or eighth century BC inscription belonging to the .

Southern Africa

led the in the battle against South African Apartheid.

In , the period of colonization resulted in many unions and marriages between men and and women from various tribes, resulting in mixed-race children. As the European settlers acquired control of territory, they generally pushed the mixed-race and Bantu and Khoisan populations into second-class status. During the first half of the 20th century, the Afrikaaner-dominated government classified the population according to four main racial groups: Black, White, (mostly ), and . The Coloured group included people of mixed Bantu, Khoisan, and European descent (with some ancestry, especially in the ). The Coloured definition occupied an intermediary political position between the Black and White definitions in South Africa. It imposed a system of legal racial segregation, a complex of laws known as .

The bureaucracy devised complex (and often arbitrary) criteria in the of 1945 to determine who belonged in which group. Minor officials administered tests to enforce the classifications. When it was unclear from a person's physical appearance whether the individual should be considered Coloured or Black, the "" was used. A pencil was inserted into a person's hair to determine if the hair was kinky enough to hold the pencil, rather than having it pass through, as it would with smoother hair. If so, the person was classified as Black. Such classifications sometimes divided families.

is a South African woman who was classified as Coloured by authorities during the apartheid era, due to her and , although her parents could prove at least three generations of European ancestors. At age 10, she was expelled from her all-white school. The officials' decisions based on her anomalous appearance disrupted her family and adult life. She was the subject of the 2008 biographical dramatic film , which won numerous awards.

During the apartheid era, those classed as "Coloured" were oppressed and discriminated against. But, they had limited rights and overall had slightly better socioeconomic conditions than those classed as "Black". The government required that Blacks and Coloureds live in areas separate from Whites, creating large townships located away from the cities as areas for Blacks.

In the post-apartheid era, the Constitution of South Africa has declared the country to be a "Non-racial democracy". In an effort to redress past injustices, the ANC government has introduced laws in support of policies for Blacks; under these they define "Black" people to include "Africans", "Coloureds" and "Asians". Some policies favor "Africans" over "Coloureds" in terms of qualifying for certain benefits. Some South Africans categorized as "African Black" say that "Coloureds" did not suffer as much as they did during apartheid. "Coloured" South Africans are known to discuss their dilemma by saying, "we were not white enough under apartheid, and we are not black enough under the ANC ()".[24]

In 2008, the High Court in South Africa ruled that who were residents during the apartheid era (and their descendants) are to be reclassified as "Black people," solely for the purposes of accessing affirmative action benefits, because they were also "disadvantaged" by racial discrimination. Chinese people who arrived in the country after the end of apartheid do not qualify for such benefits.

Other than by appearance, "Coloureds" can usually be distinguished from "Blacks" by language. Most speak or English as a , as opposed to such as or . They also tend to have more European-sounding names than names.


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Western Asia

Arab world

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(pictured atop the , Mecca) was a former Ethiopian slave and the first , ca. 630.

Historians estimate that between the advent of in 650 CE and the abolition of slavery in the in the mid-20th century, 10 to 18 million Black Africans (known as the ) were enslaved by Arab slave traders and transported to the and neighboring countries. This number far exceeded the number of slaves who were taken to the Americas. Several factors affected the visibility of descendants of this diaspora in 21st-century Arab societies: The traders shipped more female slaves than males, as there was a demand for them to serve as in harems in the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries. Male slaves were castrated in order to serve as harem guards. The death toll of Black African slaves from forced labor was high. The mixed-race children of female slaves and Arab owners were assimilated into the Arab owners' families under the . As a result, few distinctive Afro-Arab communities have survived in the and neighboring countries.

As a consequence of slavery, have found significant African female-mediated gene flow in Arab communities in the and neighboring countries, with an average of 38% of maternal lineages in Yemen are of direct African descent, 16% in Oman-Qatar, and 10% in Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates.

Distinctive and self-identified black communities have been reported in countries such as Iraq, with a reported 1.2 million black people, and they attest to a history of discrimination. These descendants of the Zanj have sought minority status from the government, which would reserve some seats in Parliament for representatives of their population. According to Alamin M. Mazrui et al., generally in the and neighboring countries, most of those of visible African descent are still classified and identify as both black and Arab.


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Afro-Iranians are people of Black African descent residing in Iran. During the , many wealthy households imported Black African women and children as slaves to perform domestic work. This slave labor was drawn exclusively from the , who were -speaking peoples that lived along the , in an area roughly comprising modern-day , and .


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About 150,000 East African and black people live in , amounting to just over 2% of the nation's population. The vast majority of these, some 120,000, are , most of whom are recent immigrants who came during the 1980s and 1990s from . In addition, Israel is home to over 5,000 members of the movement that are descendants of who emigrated to Israel in the 20th century, and who reside mainly in a distinct neighborhood in the town of . Unknown numbers of black converts to Judaism reside in Israel, most of them converts from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.

Additionally, there are around 60,000 non-Jewish African immigrants in Israel, some of whom have sought asylum. Most of the migrants are from communities in and , particularly the -speaking groups of the southern ; some are illegal immigrants.


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Beginning several centuries ago, during the period of the , tens of thousands of captives were brought by slave traders to plantations and agricultural areas situated between and in present-day . Some of their descendants remained in situ, and many migrated to larger cities and towns. Other black slaves were transported to , from where they or their descendants later reached the area through the in 1923, or indirectly from in pursuit of work.

Southern Asia

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The are an ethnic group inhabiting and whose members are descended from . In the strip of the and provinces in southwestern , these Bantu descendants are known as the Makrani. There was a brief "Black Power" movement in Sindh in the 1960s and many Siddi are proud of and celebrate their African ancestry.

Southeastern Asia

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are believed to have been the first inhabitants of . Once inhabiting Taiwan, Vietnam, and various other parts of Asia, they are now confined primarily to Thailand, the Malay Archipelago, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Negrito means "little black people" in (negrito is the Spanish diminutive of negro, i.e., "little black person"); it is what the Spaniards called the aborigines that they encountered in the . The term Negrito itself has come under criticism in countries like Malaysia, where it is now interchangeable with the more acceptable , although this term actually refers to a specific group.

Negritos in the Philippines, and Southeast Asia in general, face lots of discrimination. Usually, they are marginalized and live in poverty, unable to find employment that will take them.


Western Europe

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While census collection of ethnic background is illegal in , it is estimated that there are about 2.5 – 5 million black people residing there.


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Afro-Dutch are residents of the who are of Black African or ancestry. They tend to be from the former and present Dutch overseas territories of , , , and . The Netherlands also has sizable and other African communities.


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The term "" has been used in Europe in a broader, somewhat derogatory sense to refer to , especially those of or descent, whether living in North Africa or Iberia. Moors were not a distinct or people. Medieval and early modern Europeans applied the name to Muslim Arabs, Berbers, Black Africans and Europeans alike.

, writing in the 7th century, claimed that the word Maurus was derived from the mauron, μαύρον, which is the Greek word for black. Indeed, by the time Isidore of Seville came to write his Etymologies, the word Maurus or "Moor" had become an adjective in Latin, "for the Greeks call black, mauron". "In Isidore’s day, Moors were black by definition…"

are of / descent. They today mainly come from , , , , , and . Additionally, many Afro-Spaniards born in Spain are from the former Spanish colony . Today, there are an estimated 683,000 Afro-Spaniards in .

United Kingdom

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According to the , at the 2001 census there were over a million black people in the ; 1% of the total population described themselves as "Black Caribbean", 0.8% as "Black African", and 0.2% as "Black other". Britain encouraged the immigration of workers from the after ; the first symbolic movement was those who came on the ship the . The preferred official is "black and minority ethnic" (BME), but sometimes the term "black" is used on its own, to express unified opposition to racism, as in the , which started with a mainly constituency, and the , which has a membership of "African, African-Caribbean and Asian origin".

Eastern Europe

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As African states in the 1960s, the offered many of their citizens the chance to study in . Over a period of 40 years, about 400,000 African students from various countries moved to Russia to pursue higher studies, including many Black Africans. This extended beyond the Soviet Union to many countries of the .


Due to the in the that had flourished in the , the coastal town of in had its own black community. As a consequence of the slave trade and activity, it is told how until 1878 in Ulcinj 100 black people lived. The also deployed an estimated 30,000 Black African troops and cavalrymen to its expedition in during the .


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Indigenous Australians

have been referred to as "black people" in Australia since the . While originally related to , the term is used today to indicate Aboriginal or ancestry in general and can refer to people of any skin pigmentation.

Being identified as either "black" or "white" in during the 19th and early 20th centuries was critical in one's employment and social prospects. Various state-based were established which had virtually complete control over the lives of Indigenous Australians – where they lived, their employment, marriage, education and included the power to separate children from their parents. Aborigines were not allowed to vote and were often confined to reserves and forced into low paid or effectively slave labour. The social position of mixed-race or "" individuals varied over time. A 1913 report by Sir states that:

the half-castes belong neither to the aboriginal nor to the whites, yet, on the whole, they have more leaning towards the former; … One thing is certain and that is that the white population as a whole will never mix with half-castes... the best and kindest thing is to place them on reserves along with the natives, train them in the same schools and encourage them to marry amongst themselves.

After the , however, it became apparent that the number of mixed-race people was growing at a faster rate than the white population, and by 1930 fear of the "half-caste menace" undermining the ideal from within was being taken as a serious concern. Dr. , the , noted that:

generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian Aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the black race, and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white.

The official policy became one of biological and : "Eliminate the full-blood and permit the white admixture to half-castes and eventually the race will become white". This led to different treatment for "black" and "half-caste" individuals, with lighter-skinned individuals targeted for removal from their families to be raised as "white" people, restricted from speaking their native language and practising traditional customs, a process now known as the .

The second half of the 20th century to the present has seen a gradual shift towards improved human rights for Aboriginal people. In over 90% of the Australian population voted to end constitutional discrimination and to include Aborigines in the national . During this period many Aboriginal activists began to embrace the term "black" and use their ancestry as a source of pride. Activist said:

I only hope that when I die I can say I’m black and it’s beautiful to be black. It is this sense of pride which we are trying to give back to the aborigine [sic] today.

In 1978 Aboriginal writer received the National Book Council award for his book Living Black: Blacks Talk to Kevin Gilbert, a collection of Aboriginal people's stories, and in 1998 was awarded (but refused to accept) the Human Rights Award for Literature for Inside Black Australia, a poetry anthology and exhibition of Aboriginal photography. In contrast to previous definitions based solely on the degree of Aboriginal ancestry, in 1990 the Government changed the legal definition of Aboriginal to include any:

person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he [or she] lives

This nationwide acceptance and recognition of Aboriginal people led to a significant increase in the number of people self-identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The of the term "black" with a positive and more inclusive meaning has resulted in its widespread use in mainstream Australian culture, including public media outlets, government agencies, and private companies. In 2012, a number of high-profile cases highlighted the legal and community attitude that identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is not dependent on skin colour, with a well-known boxer being widely criticised for questioning the "blackness" of another boxer and journalist being successfully sued for publishing discriminatory comments about Aboriginals with light skin.


, nicknamed "Black Caesar", a and with parents born in an unknown area in Africa, was one of the first people of recent Black African ancestry to arrive in Australia.

At the 2006 Census, 248,605 residents declared that they were . This figure pertains to all immigrants to Australia who were born in nations in Africa regardless of race, and includes .

North America


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Black Canadians is a designation used for people of Black African descent, who are citizens or permanent residents of . The majority of Black Canadians are of origin, though the population also consists of immigrants and their descendants (including ), as well as many immigrants..

Black Canadians often draw a distinction between those of ancestry and those of other African roots. The term African Canadian is occasionally used by some Black Canadians who trace their heritage to the first slaves brought by British and French colonists to the North American mainland. Promised freedom by the British during the , thousands of were resettled by the Crown in Canada afterward, such as . In addition, an estimated ten to thirty thousand reached freedom in Canada from the during the antebellum years, aided by people along the .

Many Black people of Caribbean origin in Canada reject the term African Canadian as an elision of the uniquely Caribbean aspects of their heritage, and instead identify as Caribbean Canadian. Unlike in the United States, where African American has become a widely used term, in Canada controversies associated with distinguishing African or Caribbean heritage have resulted in the term "Black Canadian" being widely accepted there.

United States

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There were eight principal areas used by Europeans to buy and ship slaves to the . The number of enslaved people sold to the New World varied throughout the slave trade. As for the distribution of slaves from regions of activity, certain areas produced far more enslaved people than others. Between 1650 and 1900, 10.24 million enslaved West Africans arrived in the Americas from the following regions in the following proportions:

The variants neger and negar, derive from the Spanish and Portuguese word negro (black), and from the now-pejorative French nègre (negro). Etymologically, negro, noir, nègre, and ultimately derive from nigrum, the stem of the niger (black) (pronounced [ˈniɡer] which, in every other , , and besides masculine singular, is nigr-, the r is ).

By the 1900s, nigger had become a pejorative word in the . In its stead, the term became the mainstream alternative to and its derived terms. After the , the terms colored and negro gave way to "black". Negro had superseded colored as the most polite word for at a time when black was considered more offensive. This term was accepted as normal, including by people classified as Negroes, until the later movement in the late 1960s. One well-known example is the identification by Reverend of his own race as "Negro" in his famous speech of 1963, . During the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, some African-American leaders in the United States, notably , objected to the word Negro because they associated it with the long history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination that treated African Americans as second-class citizens, or worse. Malcolm X preferred Black to Negro, but later gradually abandoned that as well for Afro-American after leaving the .

Since the late 1960s, various other terms for African Americans have been more widespread in popular usage. Aside from Black American, these include Afro-American (in use from the late 1960s to 1990) and African American (used in the United States to refer to Black Americans, people often referred to in the past as American Negroes).

was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, singer and actor.

In the first 200 years that black people were in the , they primarily identified themselves by their specific (closely allied to language) and not by skin color. Individuals identified themselves, for example, as , , , or . However, when the first captives were brought to , they were often combined with other groups from West Africa, and individual ethnic affiliations were not generally acknowledged by English colonists. In areas of the Upper South, different ethnic groups were brought together. This is significant as the captives came from a vast geographic region: the West African coastline stretching from to and in some cases from the south-east coast such as . A new African-American identity and culture was born that incorporated elements of the various ethnic groups and of European cultural heritage, resulting in fusions such as the and . This new identity was based on provenance and slave status rather than membership in any one ethnic group.[] By contrast, slave records from Louisiana show that the French and Spanish colonists recorded more complete identities of the West Africans, including ethnicities and given tribal names.

The US racial or ethnic classification "black" refers to people with all possible kinds of skin pigmentation, from the darkest through to the very lightest skin colors, including , if they are believed by others to have African ancestry (in any discernible percentage). There are also certain cultural traits associated with being "", a term used effectively as a synonym for "black person" within the United States.

In March 1807, , which largely controlled the Atlantic, declared , as did the United States. (The latter prohibition took effect 1 January 1808, the earliest date on which had the power to do so after protecting the slave trade under of the .)

By that time, the majority of black people in the United States were native-born, so the use of the term "African" became problematic. Though initially a source of pride, many blacks feared that the use of African as an identity would be a hindrance to their fight for full citizenship in the US. They also felt that it would give ammunition to those who were advocating repatriating black people back to Africa. In 1835, black leaders called upon Black Americans to remove the title of "African" from their institutions and replace it with "" or "Colored American". A few institutions chose to keep their historic names, such as the . African Americans popularly used the terms "Negro" or "colored" for themselves until the late 1960s.

The term black was used throughout but not frequently since it carried a certain stigma. In his 1963 "" speech, uses the terms negro fifteen times and black four times. Each time he uses black it is in parallel construction with white; for example, "black men and white men".

With the successes of the , a new term was needed to break from the past and help shed the reminders of legalized discrimination. In place of Negro, activists promoted the use of black as standing for racial pride, militancy, and power. Some of the turning points included the use of the term "" by Kwame Toure () and the popular singer 's song "".

In 1988, the civil rights leader urged Americans to use instead the term "African American" because it had a historical cultural base and was a construction similar to terms used by European descendants, such as German American, Italian American, etc. Since then, African American and black have often had parallel status. However, controversy continues over which if any of the two terms is more appropriate. argues that the term African-American is more appropriate because it accurately articulates their geographical and historical origin.[] Others have argued that "black" is a better term because "African" suggests foreignness, although Black Americans helped found the United States. Still others believe that the term black is inaccurate because African Americans have a variety of skin tones. Some surveys suggest that the majority of Black Americans have no preference for "African American" or "Black", although they have a slight preference for "black" in personal settings and "African American" in more formal settings.

In the , Black and African Americans are citizens and residents of the United States with origins in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the , the grouping includes individuals who self-identify as African American, as well as persons who emigrated from nations in the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa. The grouping is thus based on geography, and may contradict or misrepresent an individual's self-identification since not all immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa are "Black". The Census Bureau also notes that these classifications are socio-political constructs and should not be interpreted as scientific or anthropological.

According to US Census Bureau data, generally do not self-identify as African American. The overwhelming majority of African immigrants identify instead with their own respective ethnicities (95%). Immigrants from some , and nations and their descendants may or may not also self-identify with the term.

Recent surveys of African Americans using a genetic testing service have found varied ancestries which show different tendencies by region and sex of ancestors. These studies found that on average, African Americans have 73.2–80.9% , 18–24% European, and 0.8–0.9% genetic heritage, with large variation between individuals.

One-drop rule

From the late 19th century, the South used a term, the , to classify as black a person of any known African ancestry. This practice of hypodescent was not put into law until the early 20th century. Legally the definition varied from state to state. Racial definition was more flexible in the 18th and 19th centuries before the . For instance, President held persons who were legally white (less than 25% black) according to Virginia law at the time, but, because they were born to slave mothers, they were born into slavery, according to the principle of , which Virginia adopted into law in 1662.

Outside the US, some other countries have adopted the one-drop rule, but the definition of who is black and the extent to which the one-drop "rule" applies varies greatly from country to country.

The one-drop rule may have originated as a means of increasing the number of black slaves and was maintained as an attempt to keep the white race pure.[] One of the results of the one-drop rule was the uniting of the African-American community. Some of the most prominent abolitionists and civil-rights activists of the 19th century were multiracial, such as , and James Mercer Langston. They advocated equality for all.


The concept of blackness in the United States has been described as the degree to which one associates themselves with mainstream , politics, and values. To a certain extent, this concept is not so much about race but more about political orientation, culture and behavior. Blackness can be contrasted with "", where black Americans are said to behave with assumed characteristics of stereotypical white Americans with regard to , , taste in , and possibly, from the perspective of a significant number of black youth, academic achievement.

Due to the often political and cultural contours of blackness in the United States, the notion of blackness can also be extended to non-black people. once described as the first black , because, as she put it, he displayed "almost every trope of blackness". was offended by the notion of Clinton as the first black president, noting, "Mr Clinton, according to Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, is our first black President, the first to come from the broken home, the alcoholic mother, the under-the-bridge shadows of our ranking systems. Thus, we may have lost the mystical power to divine diabolism, but we can still divine blackness by the following symptoms: broken homes, alcoholic mothers, under-the-bridge habits and (presumable from the rest of [Arthur] Miller's senescent musings) the tendency to sexual predation and to shameless perjury about same." Some black activists were also offended, claiming that Clinton used his knowledge of black culture to exploit black people for political gain as no other president had before, while not serving black interests. They cite the lack of action during the and his , which Larry Roberts said had led to the worst since the 1960s. Others cited that the number of black people in jail increased during his administration.

The question of blackness also arose in the Democrat 's . Commentators have questioned whether Obama, who was elected the first president with black ancestry, is "black enough", contending that his background is not typical because his mother was , and his father was a black . Obama chose to identify as black and .

In July 2012, reported on historic and research by its staff that discovered that Obama is likely a descendant through his mother of , considered by some historians to be the first African slave in the colony. An , he was "bound for life" in 1640 after trying to escape. The story of him and his descendants is that of multi-racial America since it appeared he and his sons married or had unions with white women, likely indentured servants and working-class like them. Their children were free because they were born to free women. Over time, Obama's line of the Bunch family (as they became known) were property owners and continued to "marry white"; they became part of white society, likely by the early to mid-18th century.

Race mixing in the United States

in the United States took place between , and . In Virginia, negro former slaves who had maintained their freedom married Native American women.

Latin America

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, an Afro-Brazilian martial art.

Approximately 12 million people were shipped from Africa to the during the from 1492 to 1888. Of these, 11.5 million of those shipped to and the . Brazil was the largest importer in the Americas, with 5.5 million African slaves imported, followed by the British Caribbean with 2.76 million, the Spanish Caribbean and Spanish Mainland with 1.59 million Africans, and the French Caribbean with 1.32 million. Today their descendants number approximately 150 million in South America and the Caribbean. In addition to skin color, other physical characteristics such as facial features and hair texture are often variously used in classifying peoples as black in South America and the Caribbean. In South America and the Caribbean, classification as black is also closely tied to social status and socioeconomic variables, especially in light of social conceptions of "" () and related concepts.


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, a preto former Justice of the Supreme Federal Court in Brazil

The concept of race in is complex. A Brazilian child was never automatically identified with the racial type of one or both of his or her parents, nor were there only two categories to choose from. Between an individual of unmixed West African descent and a very light individual, more than a dozen racial categories were acknowledged, based on various combinations of , , , and . These types grade into each other like the colors of the spectrum, and no one category stands significantly isolated from the rest. In Brazil, people are classified by appearance, not heredity.

Scholars disagree over the effects of social status on racial classifications in Brazil. It is generally believed that achieving and education results in individuals being classified as a category of lighter skin. The popular claim is that in Brazil, poor whites are considered black and wealthy blacks are considered white. Some scholars disagree, arguing that "" of one's social status may be open to people of , a large part of the population known as , but a person perceived as preto (black) will continue to be classified as black regardless of wealth or social status.


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Brazilian Population, by Race, from 1872 to 1991 (Census Data) Ethnic group White Black Brown Yellow (Asian) Undeclared Total 1872 3,787,289 1,954,452 4,188,737 – – 9,930,478 1940 26,171,778 6,035,869 8,744,365 242,320 41,983 41,236,315 1991 75,704,927 7,335,136 62,316,064 630,656 534,878 146,521,661 Demographics of Brazil Year White Pardo Black 1835 24.4% 18.2% 51.4% 2000 53.7% 38.5% 6.2% 2010 48.4% 42.4% 6.7%

From the years 1500 to 1850, an estimated 3.5 million captives were forcibly shipped from West/Central Africa to Brazil. The territory received the highest number of slaves of any country in the Americas. Scholars estimate that more than half of the Brazilian population is at least in part descended from these individuals. Brazil has the largest population of Afro-descendants outside Africa. In contrast to the US, during the slavery period and after, the Portuguese colonial government in Brazil and the later Brazilian government did not pass formal anti- or segregation laws. As in other Latin American countries, was prevalent during the colonial period and continued afterward. In addition, people of (pardo) often tended to marry white spouses, and their descendants became accepted as white. As a result, some of the European descended population also has West African or Amerindian blood. According to the last census of the 20th century, in which Brazilians could choose from five color/ethnic categories with which they identified, 54% of individuals identified as white, 6.2% identified as black, and 39.5% identified as pardo (brown) — a broad multi-racial category, including tri-racial persons.

In the 19th century, a philosophy of emerged in Brazil, related to the assimilation of mixed-race people into the white population through intermarriage. Until recently the government did not keep data on race. However, statisticians estimate that in 1835, roughly 50% of the population was preto (black; most were ), a further 20% was pardo (brown), and 25% white, with the remainder . Some classified as pardo were tri-racial.

By the 2000 census, demographic changes including the end to slavery, immigration from Europe and Asia, assimilation of multiracial persons, and other factors resulted in a population in which 6.2% of the population identified as black, 40% as pardo, and 55% as white. Essentially most of the black population was absorbed into the multi-racial category by intermixing. A 2007 genetic study found that at least 29% of the middle-class, white Brazilian population had some recent (since 1822 and the end of the colonial period) African ancestry.

Race relations in Brazil

Because of the acceptance of , Brazil has avoided the binary polarization of society into black and white. In addition, it abolished slavery without a civil war. The bitter and sometimes violent racial tensions that have divided the US are notably absent in Brazil. According to the 2010 census, 6.7% of Brazilians said they were black, compared with 6.2% in 2000, and 43.1% said they were racially mixed, up from 38.5%. In 2010, Elio Ferreira de Araujo, Brazil's minister for racial equality, attributed the increases to growing pride among his country's black and indigenous communities.

The philosophy of the in Brazil has drawn some criticism, based on economic issues. Brazil has one of the largest gaps in income distribution in the world. The richest 10% of the population earn 28 times the average income of the bottom 40%. The richest 10 percent is almost exclusively white or predominantly European in ancestry. One-third of the population lives under the , with blacks and other accounting for 70 percent of the poor.

In 2015 United States, African Americans, including multiracial people, earned 76.8% as much as white people. By contrast, black and mixed race Brazilians earned on average 58% as much as whites in 2014. Some[] have posited that the facts of lower socioeconomic status for people of color suggest that Brazil practices a kind of , or discrimination against people who are not visibly European in ancestry. The gap in income between blacks and other non-whites is relatively small compared to the large gap between whites and all people of color. Other social factors, such as illiteracy and education levels, show the same patterns of disadvantage for people of color.

Some commentators[] observe that the United States practice of and in the South, and discrimination in many areas outside that region, forced many African Americans to unite in the civil rights struggle, whereas the fluid nature of race in Brazil has divided individuals of African descent between those with more or less ancestry and helped sustain an image of the country as an example of post-colonial harmony. This has hindered the development of a common identity among black Brazilians.

Though Brazilians of at least partial African heritage make up a large percentage of the population, few blacks have been elected as politicians. The city of , for instance, is 80% people of color, but voters have not elected a mayor of color. Journalists like to say that US cities with black majorities, such as and , have not elected white mayors since after the civil rights movement, when the protected the franchise for minorities, and blacks in the South regained the power to vote for the first time since the turn of the 20th century. New Orleans elected its first black mayor in the 1970s. New Orleans elected a white mayor after the widescale disruption and damage of in 2005.

Black people in Brazil c. 1821

Critics[] note that people of color have limited media visibility.[] The Brazilian media has been accused of hiding or overlooking the nation's Black, Indigenous, Multiracial and East Asian populations.[] For example, the or are criticized for featuring actors who resemble rather than actors of the more prevalent features) and appearance. (Pardos may achieve "white" status if they have attained the middle-class or higher social status).[]

These patterns of discrimination against non-whites have led some academic and other activists to advocate for use of the Portuguese term negro to encompass all African-descended people, in order to stimulate a "black" consciousness and identity. This proposal has been criticized since the term is considered to include a wide range of multiracial people, such as (mestizos), assimilated Amerindians and tri-racials, not only people of partial African and European descent.[] Trying to identify this entire group as "black" would be a false imposition of a different identity from outside the culture and deny people their other, equally valid, ancestries and cultures. It seems a one-drop rule in reverse.[]


Main article:

Afro-Colombians are the second largest African diaspora population in Latin America after Afro-Brazilians.

Dominican Republic

Main article:

The first Afro-Dominican slaves were shipped to the by Spanish conquistadors during the Transatlantic slave trade.


Main article:

200,000 slaves were shipped from West Africa to by Spanish conquistadors. The history of these Afro-Mexicans was hidden until 2016. Racism against them and dark skin generally in Mexico and most of Latin America is prevalent.

Puerto Rico

Main article:

Spanish conquistadors shipped slaves from West Africa to . Afro-Puerto Ricans in part trace descent to this colonization of the island.


Main article:

known as Negro Primero, the most important Black Venezuelan hero who gave his life for the independence, died in a battle commanded by his friend .

Most Black Venezuelans came directly from Africa having been brought as slaves during colonization; others have been descendants of immigrants from the Antilles and Colombia. The blacks were part of the , and several managed to be heroes. There is a deep-rooted heritage of African culture in Venezuelan culture, as demonstrated in many traditional Venezuelan music and dances, such as the , a musical genre inherited from the blacks of the colony, or the or the that both are a fusion of all the three major peoples that contribute to the cultural heritage. Also the black inheritance is present in the gastronomy.

There are entire communities of blacks in the zone, as well as part of the and in other small towns; they also live peaceably among the general population in the rest of Venezuela. Currently blacks represent a relative majority in the Venezuelan population, although many are actually .

See also


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