In North American white and black folk music, an English-language folk hymn. White spirituals derived variously, notably from the “lining out” of psalms, dating from at least the mid-17th century. Where congregations could not read, a leader intoned the psalm one line at a time, alternating with the congregation's singing of each line to a familiar melody; the tune, sung slowly, was ornamented with passing notes, turns, and other graces. A second source was the singing of hymns set to borrowed melodies, often secular folk tunes. Themes included going home to the promised land and gaining ground against sin; typical refrains were “Roll, Jordan” and “Glory Hallelujah.” The songs survive in oral tradition in isolated areas and also in the form of shape-note singings. African American spirituals developed in part from white rural folk hymnody but differ greatly in voice quality, vocal effects, rhythm, and type of rhythmic accompaniment. They were sung not only in worship but also as work songs, and the text imagery often reflects concrete tasks. Like the white gospel song, the modern African American gospel song derives from the spiritual.
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Modern synonyms in common use include the following:
It fell out of favor by the 1970s in the United States after the Civil Rights movement. However, older African Americans from the period when "Negro" was considered acceptable, initially found the term "Black" more offensive than "Negro". Evidence for this is in historical African-American organizations and institutions' use of the term--such as the United Negro College Fund. In current English language usage, "Negro" is generally considered acceptable in a historical context, such as baseball's Negro Leagues of the early and mid-20th century, or in the name of older organizations, as in Negro spirituals, the United Negro College Fund or the Journal of Negro Education. The U.S. Census now uses the grouping "Black or African American."
A specifically female form of the word—negress (sometimes capitalized) —was sometimes used; but, like another gender-specific word "Jewess", it has all but completely fallen from use. (An exception is its extremely unusual use in the titles of paintings, drawings and sculptures, largely as an allusion to the formerly common occurrence of the word in such titles, but such usage has dropped off dramatically.) Both are considered racist and sexist, although as with other racial, ethnic, and sexual words that are seen as pejoratives, some individuals have tried "reclaiming" the word. An example of this is artist Kara Walker.
The related word Negroid was used by 19th and 20th century racial anthropologists. The suffix -oid means "similar to" and is meant to designate a wider or more generalized category than the original word.
In Portuguese, negro is an adjective meaning the color black, as in 'black' person. However, preto is the most common antonym of branco (white), while negro can be condescending, since it is a word generally associated with higher registers. In Brazil the word is considered respectful and the appropriate manner to refer to the black race, though it is often considered impolite to take note of an individual's skin color in any context (which causes the word to be used only in reported speech or in third-person).
In Spain, negro (note that ethnonyms are generally not capitalized in Romance languages) means "black person" in colloquial situations, but it can be considered derogatory in other situations (for example, by French influence, negro is also the word for a ghost writer ). However, in Spanish-speaking countries, such as Argentina, Chile, Uruguay , negro (negra for females) is commonly used to refer to partners, close friends or people in general independent of skin color.
It is similar to the use of the word "nigga" in urban communities in the U.S. For example, one may say to a friend, "Negro ¿Como andas? (Literally, "Hey, black one, how are you doing?") In this case the diminutive negrito is used, as a term of endearment meaning "pal", or "buddy" or "friend." Negrito has come to be used to refer to a person of any ethnicity or color, and also can have a sentimental or romantic connotation similar to "sweetheart," or "dear" in English. (In the Philippines, Negrito was used for a local dark-skinned short person, living in the Negros islands among other places)
In other Spanish-speaking South American countries, the word negro can also be employed in a roughly equivalent form, though it is not usually considered to be as widespread as in Argentina or Uruguay (except perhaps in a limited regional and/or social context).
The popular Argentinian singer Mercedes Sosa is nicknamed "La Negra" by her fans, which in this case refers to the colour of her hair rather than of her skin.
In Haitian Creole the word nèg, derived from the French "nègre", refers to a dark-skinned man; it can also be used for any man, regardless of skin color, roughly like "guy" or "dude" in American English.
The Dutch "neger" is generally (but not universally) considered as neutral, or at least less negative than "zwarte" (black one).
In German, Neger used to be considered a neutral term for black people, however gradually fell out of favour throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Nowadays it is largely considered a racist slur due to its phonetic similarity to nigger, and only used without racist connotation by members of the pre-baby boomer generation. Otherwise, the term Schwarzer (black person) is preferred or Farbiger (colored person). There is a candy traditionally called Negerkuss (literally "negro kiss"). Due to its arguably offensive character, the name is no longer used.
In Russia the term "негр" (negr) was commonly used in the Soviet period without any negative connotation, and its use continues in this neutral sense. In modern Russian media, the word is used somewhat less frequently "африканцы" ("Africans") or "афро-американцы"("Afro-Americans") are used instead, depending on the situation), but is still common in oral speech. The word "black" (чёрный) used as a form of address is pejorative, although it is primarily used with respect to peoples of the Caucasus, natives of Central Asia, and not black people.
In Italy negro was used as a neutral term until the end of the 60's. Nowadays the word is considered offensive in some contexts; if used with a clear negative intention it may be punished by law. Neutral words to define a black or dark skinned person without risking to result offensive are nero (arcaism of negro, literally "black") or di colore (coloured).
In Swedish neger used to be considered a neutral term for black people, but the term has gradually fell out of favour through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Today the neutral term to define a black person is svart (literally "black"). There is a Swedish pastry traditionally called negerboll (literally "negro ball"). Due to its arguably offensive character, the name has fallen out of favor in for example cooking books. It's still in use in less formal circumstances though.