In investigating the use of “Negro” and “black” to include persons of Native American ancestry, Jack D. Forbes brings together a large number of wide-ranging references on an elusive topic. The preliminary nature of Forbes's study and the inevitably problematic status of the data make his work thus far more valuable in suggestive than definitive terms. For example, while the conclusions regarding practices in King Williams Parish, Virginia, in the early 18th century seem generally acceptable, a heavy dependence on given names such as Robin as clues to classification should probably be avoided (Robin is the diminutive of the common name Robert, and can be either masculine or feminine), but there is little question about the rather cavalier and arbitrary willingness of the power elite to impose names on their “inferiors,” names that reflect a complex mixture of assumptions, prejudices, and needs. This is simply to say that the critical reevaluation that Forbes calls for in closing is less difficult to engage in than the equally valuable empirical reevaluation.

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