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Leaders Say Blacks Want To Be Called ‘African-Americans’

December 20, 1988 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ A group of black leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, says members of their race would prefer to be called African-Americans rather than blacks.

″Just as we were called colored, but were not that, and then Negro, but not that, to be called black is just as baseless,″ Jackson said at a news conference Monday after a meeting of the black leaders.

″To be called African-Americans has cultural integrity,″ he said. ″It puts us in our proper historical context. Every ethnic group in this country has a reference to some land base, some historical cultural base. African- Americans have hit that level of cultural maturity.″

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Jackson was joined by former Gary, Ind., Mayor Richard Hatcher, National Urban Coalition President Ramona Edelin, Gloria Toote, a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and others.

″There are Armenian-Americans and Jewish Americans and Arab-Americans and Italian-Americans,″ Jackson said. ″And with a degree of accepted and reasonable pride, they connect their heritage to their mother country and where they are now.″

The black leaders, meeting to discuss national goals, said they would meet again in Washington on March 3.

Many of the leaders at the meeting, including representatives of the National Black Republicans Council, the National Black County Officials and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the term African-Americans would be a psychological lift.

The Rev. Willie Barrow, president of Operation PUSH, said she will start using the term immediately.

″I’m African-American just like the Polish are Polish-American and Italians are Italian-American,″ she said. ″It’s something we’ve all agreed upon and it’s just great.″

Cook County Commissioner John Stroger said he already uses the term.

″It’s appropriate in the light of our origin,″ he said.

But some said the change was superficial.

″We must have really reached a zenith in the civil rights struggle that we have to now busy ourselves with semantics,″ said the Rev. B. Herbert Martin, head of Chicago’s Human Relations Commission.

However, Martin added, ″I think the title or name African-American points us to a higher consciousness in terms of the origin of African people.″