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"Marcus W. Koechig" <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 19:08:43 -0400
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In my book business, it always is a pleasure to come across old newspapers
and magazines. I am in possession of a large number of Harper's Weekly
magazines from the 1897-98 period and, news about the Maine and the Klondike
aside, there is some interesting reading at hand. In light of the recent
trouble in which our friend Huck has once again found himself, I offer the
following from Harper's Weekly, March 19, 1898.

Strange experiences fall to the lot of the adjective "colored." We are used
to speaking of negroes as colored people. That usage commends itself to
polite people as euphemistical, but the derivatives of it as passing queer
[now there is one for the gay rights folks; wouldn't this be rather
painful?] "For a Colored Reformatory," is the head-line of a recent
paragraph in a Boston paper, from which it appeared that the Negro
Reformatory Association at Richmond, Virginia, wants funds (for what, by the
way, seems a good purpose). What is a negro reformatory in Richmond becomes,
apparently, a colored reformatory when it reaches Boston.
In the hearing of the present paragrapher some one recently accused Joel
Chandler Harris of writing "colored dialect," and that happened not in
Boston at all, but in New York. No doubt there is a "colored press," the
friends and owners of which would resent the supposition of uninformed
persons that perhaps it was "yellow." The truth is that the immense increase
in the scope and descriptive force of "yellow" has made "colored" rather too
ambiguous a word for miscellaneous use.

It seems as though only the calendar changes.

Marcus W. Koechig