When did the n-word become unacceptable?

When was the n-word first recognized as a slur? When did the n-word become unacceptable in broader society? When did the black community start reclaiming the term? This video not only answers these questions, but also presents evidence that controversy over white allies’ use of the term started as far back as the nineteenth century.

Please be aware that when this video cites historical and academic sources using the n-word uncensored, the quotations shown on screen will not censor it.

Adams, John Greenleaf. Our Day: A Gift for the Times. Boston, Mass.: B. B. Mussey & Company, 1848. Blyden, Edward Wilmot. From West Africa to Palestine. London, UK: T.J. Sawyer, 1873.

Easton, Hosea. A Treatise on the Intellectual Character and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States: And the Prejudice Exercised Towards Them. Boston, Mass.: I. Knapp, 1837.

erinoutdoors. “The Ethics of Travel Photography.” ERIN OUTDOORS, 14 February 2018. https://erinoutdoors.com/ethics-of-travel-photography/.

Hawley, Edwin H. Mnemotechny for the Million On the Basis of F. F. Gouraud. Ohio, USA: Commercial Advertiser Print, 1858.

Hunter, Robert. The Encyclopædic Dictionary: A New, and Original Work of Reference to All the Words in the English Language with a Full Account of Their Origin, Meaning, Pronounciation, and Use. Cassell, Petter, Galpin and Company, 1885.

King, Wyman, Richard Emanuel, Xavier Brown, Niroby Dingle, Vertis Lucas, Anissa Perkins, Ayzia Turner, Destinee Whittington, Qwa’dryna Witherspoon, et al. “Who Has the ‘Right’ to Use the N-Word? A Survey of Attitudes about the Acceptability of Using the N-Word and Its Derivatives.” International Journal of Society, Culture & Language 6.2 (2018): 47–58.

McWhorter, John. “Opinion | How the N-Word Became Unsayable.” The New York Times, 30 April 2021, § Opinion. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/30/opinion/john-mcwhorter-n-word-unsayable.html.

———. “The Root: Students Cheated By Censored ‘Huck Finn.’” NPR, 11 January 2011. https://www.npr.org/2011/01/11/132829423/the-root-students-cheated-by-censored-huck-finn.

Parks, Gregory Scott, and Shayne E. Jones. “‘Nigger’: A Critical Race Realist Analysis of the N-Word within Hate Crimes Law.” SSRN Journal (2008). https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1248382.

Perry, Andre. “Educators Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Teach the History of the N-Word.” The Root, 21 August 2018. https://www.theroot.com/educators-shouldnt-be-afraid-to-teach-the-history-of-th-1828455435.

Pryor, Elizabeth Stordeur. “The Etymology of Nigger: Resistance, Language, and the Politics of Freedom in the Antebellum North.” Journal of the Early Republic 36.2 (2016): 203–45. https://doi.org/10.1353/jer.2016.0028.

Rahman, Jacquelyn. “The N Word: Its History and Use in the African American Community.” Journal of English Linguistics 40.2 (2012): 137–71. https://doi.org/10.1177/0075424211414807.

Richardson, Elaine. Hiphop Literacies. Routledge, 2006. Schouler, James. History of the United States of America Under the Constitution: 1831-1847. 1880. Vol. 4. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1889.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *