Ten Little Niggers Essay

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Like most terms and slurs, nigger evolved to take on different meanings throughout the history of its usage. In the era succeeding the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery, nigger took on new forms and different meanings within the United States and abroad. During this period, nigger became a colloquial term throughout the whole of the United States, even though it still held its anti-black prejudices (Allan, 2015). As the society industrialized so too did nigger, the term became heavily featured in literary, theatrical, cinematic, press, mercantile, and even scientific work, thus further encouraging racist sentiments. A popular puzzle game produced by the Mcloughlin Brothers of New York in eighteen seventy four was given the appalling …show more content…
The cruel wave of commercialized racism was not unique to the United States, the Millhoff Company in the United Kingdom produced a series of racist playing cards, “One of the cards shows ten small Black dogs with the caption: ‘Ten Little Nigger Boys Went Out To Dine.’”, the cards were quite popular in both Britain and America (Middleton, 2001). Both the British and Americans colonizing in India and the Philippines respectfully, saw fit to label their indigenous subjects as niggers, supposedly to diminish the natives’ integrity by verbally demoting them to the low levels held by blacks in these western societies (Zinn, 2001). During the late Victorian era there was enormous interest in racial biology; pseudoscientific tests of all kinds were conducted with the hopes of empirically proving the superiority of the Anglo Saxon and the inferiority of “niggers” as well as other undesired races. In the absence of slavery, a void of insecurity arose which threatened the notion of racial supremacy held so dearly by many whites of this time, this void was filled by a kind of enlightened racism which sought to vindicate white prejudice through science instead of the …show more content…
It may seem strange that a community would be comfortable using a slang term that has contributed to so much pain and trouble, but similarly to the way lesbian, gay, Bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) peoples reclaimed the word queer in the nineteen eighties, many African Americans have adopted the use of nigger. This adoption of the term stems from the way it was used in the past. The term African American has only come into use within the last half century; nigger was used not just to bully but as a non-racist descriptive label in much the same way African American or black is used today (Allan, 2015). By the middle of the twentieth century, nigger had ceased to be appropriate within colloquial language due to the growing opposition to segregation and racism within both white and black communities. The term Colored soon took the place of nigger or Negro in the descriptive sense (Middleton, 2001). Nigger, when used by members of the African American community, usually does not carry the same cruel intent as when it is used by a white person. As rightly put by a PBS article on the use of the term in Huckleberry Finn, “usage of the word (nigger) in African American culture is complex in that it can be used affectionately, politically, or pejoratively, the epithet is considered an abusive slur when used by white people.”, of course context is always key but usually

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