Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Negro Definition:

Black-skinned inhabitants of tropical Africa or their descendants.

Related Terms: Slavery, Mulatto, Miscegenation

A term of racial distinction used mostly in American jurisdictions in widespread efforts to discriminate against persons of African descent to the point where, today, the term is taken by such persons as an adverse racial characterization.

In any event, as to legal history, the justice system has defined the term such as State v Treadaway in which Justice Provosty of the Supreme Court of Louisiana extensively wrote of the various dictionary and legal definitions of negro at that time, one of which was:

"A name properly applied to a race or variety of the human species inhabiting the central portion of Africa.... Their characteristics are skin black, hair woolly, lips thick, nose depressed, jaws protruding, forehead retiring, proportions of the extremeties abnormal."

In MRSA v Reynolds, Justice Boyles of the Supreme Court of Michigan adopted these words:

"Negro (is) generally a person belonging to the African race, and having such proportions of African blood as will identify him with that race....

"A black man descended from the black race of South Africa...."


  • MRSA v Reynolds, 27 NW 2d 40 (1947)
  • State v Treadaway, 52 So. 500 (1910)

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