Home News Afro Briefs Originally published March 01, 2013

Census Bureau to Drop ‘Negro’ as Racial Identifier

by Zenitha Prince
Special to the AFRO

  •   Click on the photo to view additional Photos.
    In this photograph of a sample 2010 US Census form, obtained by The Associated Press shows question 9: "What is Person 1's race", on the first page of the 2010 Census form, with options for White: Black, African Am., or Negro. After more than a century, the Census Bureau is dropping use of the word "Negro" to describe black Americans in its surveys. Instead of the term popularized during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, census forms will use the more modern-day labels, “black” or “African-American”. (AP Photo)

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The U.S. Census Bureau is removing from agency forms the term Negro, after more than a century of use, to describe Black Americans in its surveys.

Beginning next year, when the bureau distributes its annual American Community Survey to more than 3.5 million U.S. households, all census forms will use the more modern terms of Black and African American, according to Nicholas Jones, chief of the bureau's racial statistics branch, who spoke with the Associated Press.

The government had considered retiring the term during the 2010 Census. However, they decided against the removal, arguing that some Americans, mainly older African Americans from the South, still used the identifier.

In January 2010, then-Census Bureau Director Robert Groves wrote a blog post about the subject that drew debate.

He said the agency failed to do any research on respondents’ reaction to the word Negro in the 2000s, but did "do tests that showed answers to the ethnicity and race questions tended to change depending on the order of the questions."

In response, he said, “I think some research on the sensitivity of answers to the presence of ‘Negro’ should have been done last decade, but I am unaware of what limitations there were on the research program then.”

He continued, "Some of the commentary on the question comes from people offended by the term. I apologize to them. I am confident that the intent of my colleagues in using the same wording as Census 2000 was to make sure as many people as possible saw words that matched their self-identities. Full inclusiveness was the goal."

The term Negro, which is of Spanish and Portuguese origin, was first used in the census in 1900 and is associated with the Jim Crow era of segregation. As such, many African Americans no longer identify with the term and find it offensive and obsolete, Census officials found out after months of research and public feedback.

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