Slaves vs. Negro vs. Negroe

3 words that have negative connotation today, but were fairly standard words in the vernacular during General George Washington’s time. On February 18, 1786 Washington wrote, “Took a list to day of all my Negroes which are as follows at Mount Vernon and the plantations around it”. As you can see, “negroe” shows up the least in books, while “slave” and “negro” appear more in writings from 1700 to 2000. “Slave” has the most prominence until around 1919 when the word “negro” spikes largely, peaking in 1946 and 1968 (most likely due to the Civil Rights movement). “Negroe” has a small spike in the 1770’s until it was pushed out of prominence by “negro”.

George Washington, “Diary Entry: 18 February 1786,” National Archives Founders Online, Accessed 29 April 2015, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/01-04-02-0003-0002-0018.

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