From Academic Kids

See also: Coloured

Colored and person of color (or people of color in the plural sense) are terms that were commonly used to describe people who do not have white skin or a Caucasian appearance. This usually meant African Americans and other blacks, although the terms can be applied to members of other races as well. The term "colored" in particular (along with "Negro") largely has fallen out of popular usage in the United States, diminishing in frequency in the last third of the 20th century. Despite the negative connotations it may have today, "colored" was once a term used virtually universally in the U.S., and it came to be used as part of the name of the NAACP—the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The term "colored" appeared in North America during the colonial era. A "colored" man halted a runaway carriage that was carrying President John Tyler on March 4, 1844. In 1863, the War Department established the "Bureau of Colored Troops." The first twelve Census counts in the U.S. enumerated "colored" people, who totaled nine million in 1900. The Census counts of 1910-1960 enumerated "negroes."

"Colored" was originally a term for persons of mixed African and Caucasian and/or Native American ancestry. Coloreds and mixed Creoles generally were accorded higher status than blacks. Later, "colored" was used to refer to all persons of African ancestry.

"Person of color" or "people of color" remain widely accepted terms for people who are not white and, (especially in the United States and Canada), for members of a minority group or peoples of Third World origin. It should be noted that there are varying notions of who is white (see whites), and the notion of race itself has been challenged in recent years.

The British English spelling coloured can mean the same in the United Kingdom (today usually used only by older people and often considered offensive). Primarily in South Africa, it also can have a related, but different, meaning– of a mixed-race person.

The historical term free people of color refers to people of African descent during slavery who lived in freedom. A related term from the time of slavery is gens de couleur, a French expression that refers to the free descendants of white French colonists and Africans. Because so many of these people had mixed African and European ancestry, they are sometimes labeled mulatto. They are also sometimes referred to as affranchis.

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