Table 1

 Analysis of terms currently in use to describe African origin populations

TermMeaningStrengthsWeaknessesComments and recommendations
Negro (Negroid,Homo Afer)People of black or dark skinned race of mankind.Socially recognised and historically lasting concept.Defined populations by physical features in the distant past.Used to describe heterogeneous populationsConsidered inappropriate and derogatory.Abandon in scientific writings.
Unrelated to ethnicity.
Considered offensive, associated with slavery and contemptuous.
BlackAs for Negro.Used in USA and UK censuses: gives denominator; “usually tested”.Used to describe heterogeneous populations. Unrelated to ethnicity.In practice it refers to persons with sub-Saharan African ancestral origins with brown or black complexion.
Socially recognised and historically lasting concept.In some circumstances the term Black signifies all non-White minority populations
Use with caution.
African/originApplies to a native of Africa.Signifies geographical origin.Geographically (continental) based.Used to describe heterogeneous populations.This term is currently the preferred prefix for more specific categories, such as African America, African Caribbean.
Using on its own should be avoided.
Black AfricanRefers to people, and their offspring with African ancestral origins who/family migrated directly from sub-Saharan Africa.Used in UK censuses.Signifies sub-continental origin.Very broad Unrelated to ethnicityAvoid if possible.
Afro-Caribbean/ African CaribbeanApplies to descents people, and their offspring, with African ancestral origin but migrated via the Caribbean islands.Used in censuses Signifies geographical origin Attempts to describe a cultural groupInaccurate unless it is a truly representative population.Used to describe heterogeneous populationsUseful and preferred if other ethnic groups are not included.Avoid combining other African groups.
Afro-American/African AmericanApplies to people, and their offspring, with African ancestral origin (many are descendents of persons brought as slaves).Used in USA censuses.Signifies geographical origin. Attempts to describe a cultural group.In practice, North Africans from Algeria, Morocco and such countries are excluded from this category.As for African Caribbean.Useful and preferred if other ethnic groups are not included.