CC0 Public Domain

In 1953, when I was born, I was called Negro. The Civil Rights Act had not yet been signed; that would happen later. So I was born in the colored wing of a county hospital in Virginia. When I got to my teens, I was black and it was very popular to be black. No longer did it mean you had to fight someone if they called you black; it was becoming something to be proud of. As I got older, in my 30s and 40s, I was called African American. This was all right with me because I am American and I am dark. There is a great deal of emphasis applied to ancestry and history; now everyone wants to know what they are and where they came from.

I just want to know why it is so important. If our ancestors 1,000 or more years ago came from Africa, or Jamaica, or wherever, what does it really matter? Does it make a person making an accusation about race feel superior and make you feel inferior? Think of it as a way of finding something to make the accuser feel superior!

Doesn’t being an American count as a place to come from?