Reparative Description Preferred Term
Preferred Terms: Person, woman/women, girl(s), Black woman/women, Black girl(s), African American woman/women, African American girl(s), child, teenager
Non-Preferred Term: Negress (pl. negresses)
Related Terms that May Continue to be Used: n/a
Depending on the context, woman (pl. women), girl (pl. girls), child (pl. children), teenager (pl. teenagers), Black woman (pl. Black women), or Black girl (pl. Black girls) should be used as preferred terms instead. The modifier Black does not need to be included, especially if the description elsewhere provides context related to Black people, African American people, enslaved people, or slavery (mentioned elsewhere in notes or indexed as a subject access point).
Title - Metalwork And Jewelry: Portrait of A Woman, Property Card Number 16399/Starnberg5/30
Other Title - Metalwork And Jewelry: Portrait of A Negress, Property Card Number 16399/Starnberg5/30
General Note - “Metalwork And Jewelry: Portrait of A Negress, Property Card Number 16399/Starnberg5/30” was the original title of this item.
General Note - This archival description was reviewed and revised as part of the NARA reparative description initiative on [mm/dd/yyyy]. Original archival records have not been altered.
African American woman (pl. African American women) or African American girl (pl. African American girls) are also acceptable, but they are not necessarily interchangeable with Black. Black can be used regardless of nationality, while African American is specific to Americans of African, and especially Black African, descent. Some individuals in the United States self-identify with both terms, while others prefer one term over the other; some may prefer a different but related term (e.g., Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino). Descriptions of individuals should use the individual’s preferred self-identifier (if known), no identifier, or a current, non-harmful, preferred term.
Descriptions should not use direct quotations in which negress appears. Alternatives to including direct quotations include paraphrasing (best for descriptions of non-digitized material) or transcription.
Where does this apply?
This applies to changes in descriptions and authority records, especially the subject authority file. See the Appendix: Reparative Description Preferred Terms for guiding principles and general guidance.
Adopted from French in the mid-18th century, English speakers adopted the term negress and used it as a feminine form of negro. Negress or negress was most often used pejoratively to refer to Black women or girls. Unlike negro, which was reclaimed by Black Americans as a preferred self-identifier during the early to mid-20th century, negress retained its central use as a racial and misogynistic slur.
- See “Negress,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary (accessed February 9, 2022)
- “Negress—Usage and Origin,” Lexico (accessed February 9, 2022); Bettye Collier-Thomas and James Turner
- “Race, Class and Color: The African American Discourse on Identity,” Journal of American Ethnic History 14, no. 1 (1994): 29, note 37.
- Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia, “Anti-Racist Description Resources,” October 2019; “Guidelines for Inclusive and Conscientious Description” (rev. January 20, 2022), published by the Center for the History of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
- See the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definitions of “Black (Entry 2 of 6)” and “African American” (accessed February 7, 2022).
Date added: July 20, 2022
Date updated: June 27, 2023