Now that the New Year is here and the holidays distractions are behind us, it’s time to get back on tract!
During the course of my researching various family members I have run across the terms Mulatto, White and Black all in the same census of one family. So I stopped and took a bit of a turn to research the words and why they might be used in this context.
- The term “black” is often used in the West to describe people whose skin is darker. In the United States, it is particularly used to describe African-Americans. The terms for African-Americans have changed over the years, as shown by the categories in the United States Census, taken every ten years.
- In the first U.S. Census, taken in 1790, just four categories were used: Free White males, Free White females, other free persons, and slaves.
- In the 1820 census the new category “colored” was added.
- In the 1850 census, slaves were listed by owner, and a B indicated black, while an M indicated “mulatto.”
- In the 1890 census, the categories for race were white, black, mulatto, quadroon (a person one-quarter black); octoroon (a person one-eighth black), Chinese, Japanese, or American Indian.
- In the 1930 census, anyone with any black blood was supposed to be listed as “Negro.”
- In the 1970 census, the category “Negro or black” was used for the first time.
- In the 2000 and 2012 census, the category “Black or African-American” was used, defined as “a person having their origin in any of the racial groups in Africa.” In the 2012 Census 12.1 percent of Americans identified themselves as Black or African-American.*
* “Through the Decades”. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-01-01