House Negro

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"House Negro" (also "House Nigger") is a pejorative term for a black person, used to compare someone to a house slave of a slave owner from the historic period of legal slavery in the United States.

Origin and meaning

The term was used in the speech "Message to the Grass Roots" (1963) by African-American activist Malcolm X, wherein he explains that during slavery, there were two kinds of slaves: "house Negroes", who worked in the master's house, and "field Negroes", who performed the manual labor outside. He characterizes the house Negro as having a better life than the field Negro, and thus being unwilling to leave the plantation and potentially more likely to support existing power structures that favor whites over blacks. Malcolm X identified with the field Negro.[1]

The term is used against individuals,[2][3] in critiques of attitudes within the African American community,[4] and as a borrowed term for critiquing parallel situations.[5] For example,as Natalie Pompilio reports in [6]

"At the peak of comic Flip Wilson's popularity, some of his contemporaries criticized him for not doing enough to advance the cause of African-Americans. After all, his hit television program, The Flip Wilson Show, gave him access to millions of viewers each week in the heavily segregated America of the early 1970s. Yet his humor was lighthearted and apolitical. Richard Pryor even told Flip he was 'the NBC house Negro'."

Other countries

In New Zealand in 2012, Hone Harawira, a Member of Parliament and leader of the socialist Mana Party, aroused controversy after referring to Maori MPs from the ruling New Zealand National Party as "little house niggers" during a heated debate on electricity privatisation, and its potential effect on Waitangi Tribunal claims.[7]

See also


  1. Malcolm X (1990) [1965]. Malcolm X Speaks. New York: Grove Weidenfeld. pp. 10–12. ISBN 0-8021-3213-8.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  2. "Obama a 'house negro', says Al-Qaeda". Sydney Morning Herald. November 21, 2008. 
  3. "Black Group Condemns Cartoonist for Racist Strip About Condoleezza Rice". Project 21 press release. July 19, 2004. 
  4. James, Darryl, author of "Bridging The Black Gender Gap". "The Bridge: In the House". 
  5. Roche, Kathi Roche. "The Secretary: Capitalism's House Nigger". Women's Liberation Movement on-line archival collection, Special Collections Library. Duke University. 
  6. Pompilio, Natalie. "Legends and Legacies: Flip Wilson". Retrieved June 27, 2015. 
  7. Danya Levy; Kate Chapman (2012-09-06). "Harawira's N-bomb directed at National MPs". Fairfax NZ.