Capitalizing Black: Updates From the AP Stylebook

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In light of the renewed focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and the nation’s attention on police brutality and racism, the Associated Press Stylebook (AP Stylebook) and many other media outlets, including Buzzfeed, the LA Times, and MSNBC, have begun capitalizing the word “Black” when referring to people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa. This includes when using the word in a sentence or in sentence case titles.

This change aligns with AP’s historical capitalization of other racial and ethnic identifiers, and nationalities. The word “black” when referring to specifically color will remain lowercase.

History of capitalizing the word “Black”

The debate about whether to capitalize the word “Black” in sentences goes back over a hundred years ago. According to a post by the NY Times, W. E. B. Du Bois campaigned for capitalizing the word “Negro” as well:

In the mid-1920s, W. E. B. Du Bois began a letter-writing campaign, demanding that book publishers, newspaper editors and magazines capitalize the N in Negro when referring to Black people. Even though Du Bois himself didn’t use the word Negro consistently — one of his most famous works, after all, is “The Souls of Black Folk” — it was the official name for the race, and as such, Du Bois wanted that word to confer respect on the page as well as in daily life.

Other Changes

During this announcement, the AP Stylebook also announced that the word “Indigenous” will also be capitalized when used in reference to original inhabitants of a place.

Additional reading

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