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Black as an adjective

This is written either "black" or capitalized as "Black", when used to refer to a person belonging or relating to a race of people with dark skin, especially people whose families are, or were originally, from Africa.

As an adjective it can then be used to refer to the cultural products and activities of such people. ( "Black culture", "Black theatre", "Black South Africans" and so on.)

South African usage

In South Africa with its enormous multi-cultural mix of ethnic and cultural communities, this is naturally - and has always really been - a very contentious matter. By and large this encyclopaedia utilizes the American and African-American usage, which has been followed in South Africa from the middle of the 1970s till well after 1994, namely to use the adjective "black" in this context to refer to the conventions, attributes, activities and culture of anyone not considered "White" or "European" (i.e. classified as "non-white" or "non-European" in former years, for instance under British rule/Apartheid regime). It was thus a blanket term, referring to all people that used to be referred to as African (or more denigratingly, Kaffir) by the colonials, such as the Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana, and so on. However it also included the more marginal groups, such as the so-called "Coloureds", the Indians and all the other Asian peoples living in the country.

This usage has been challenged in a variety of ways of course, and actually derives from one of the overriding aims of the various anti-apartheid solidarity movements (most notably the Black People's Convention and the Black Consciousness Movement which it espoused), namely to create solidarity among all the oppressed. In this light for example, Ian Steadman (in Hauptfleisch and Steadman, 1984) sees "Black theatre" as theatre with a specific point of view rather than a theatre defined by skin pigmentation.

Today there are other schools of thought however, that prefer to reserve "black" for only those people of pure African or Bantu descent alone, and this is increasingly noticeable as we move past the 1990 shift in power - and indeed this is the way the new the ANC led government uses it, having kept the old Apartheid categorizations alive after 1994 (ostensibly for purposes of redress and equity).

Other contentious terms of differentiation used over the centuries in Southern Africa, and appearing in the plays and literature, include: Bushman, Hottentot, Kaffir, Bantu, White / Non-White, European / Non-European,

See also

Apartheid classifications and terminology


Macmillan Dictionary (online)[1]

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