a black negro-man,

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enkidu68

Senior Member
turkish
Hi friends,
I am citing it from Captain Singleton by Defoe.


But at length one of the natives, a black negro-man, showed us a tree,
the wood of which being put into the fire, sends forth a liquid that is
as glutinous and almost as strong as tar, and of which, by boiling, we
made a sort of stuff which served us for pitch, and this answered our
end effectually; for we perfectly made our vessel sound and tight, so
that we wanted no pitch or tar at all. This secret has stood me in stead
upon many occasions since that time in the same place.

My question: Defoe uses this word "negro" from begining of the book,
so he all of a sudden used "black negro-man", as far as I know,
negro contains "black" in its root.
So why did he stress "black" again?
By the way, negro is a pejorative description already.
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't think "negro" was pejorative in the early 18th century. It's quite likely that Defoe referred to any dark-skinned men as "negroes" and this one was very dark. Many negroes are brown, not black - and I'm not using "negro" pejoratively.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Defoe was writing in the early 18th century, when the use of these words was viewed very differently than it is today. It is possible that he wanted to emphasize that the man had a particularly dark skin, but three centuries later it is hard for anyone but a specialist historian to know the cultural context in which Defoe was writing.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    "Negro" may have black (in another language) as its root, but when used to refer to race it does not mean "black". It does not even mean "dark skinned".

    "Negro" (and its scientific term "negroid") refers to a group of many races, most of them native (historically) to Africa. Skin tone is not the distinguishing physical feature of those races. Many non-negroid races have darker skin than some "negroid" races.

    Until the mid 1900s the word "negro" was an acceptable, even polite term for someone of one of those races. It was not a "perjorative" (impolite, rude, insulting) term in the US in the 1950s. That started later.
     

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    Until the mid 1900s the word "negro" was an acceptable, even polite term for someone of one of those races. It was not a "perjorative" (impolite, rude, insulting) term in the US in the 1950s. That started later.
    I agree completely, and would extend it further than the 1950s. There were educational institutions that referred to themselves as "predominantly Negro". I believe the United Negro College Fund, which provides scholarships, is still active.
     
    Last edited:

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Defoe was writing in the early 18th century, when the use of these words was viewed very differently than it is today.
    I agree.

    One of the traditional definitions of "negro" include "a native from the lands south of the Sahara". This more specifically includes the area of West Africa where the "Slave Coast" and the "Gold Coast" were situated. From memory, I think part of the book is set in the Gold Coast.
    Negro - Wikipedia

    By saying "a black negro-man", in this instance, Defoe is saying that he was "a black man born in that area of West Africa."
     
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