What Is an Uppity Negro?

uppity negro

Use: proper noun
a fearless black person who by social definition is “not in their place”

In the vicious history of racial segregation in this country, with its roots in the slaveocracy that contributed heavily to the building of the United States, in a post-Civil War society as blacks determined to legally fight for their freedom and began to take more and more liberties with exercising de facto forms of civil disobedience against Jim Crow laws in the South and discriminatory practices in the north, the phrase “uppity Negro” emerged.  (Undoubtedly, its linguistic cousin “nigger,” I’m sure was often transposed for the more classy option of “Negro.”)  Simply stated, an uppity Negro was one who dared to blatantly challenge the racist societal norms.

While the archetypes of black history include the likes of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass all the way to Mary McLeod Bethune and Martin Luther King, Jr., for me, the uppity Negroes who made even more of a difference were the unnamed people in small towns and large cities that took a stand.  The hundreds of black men lynched from trees for not “knowing their place” and the hundreds of black women beaten and raped at the will of white men for simply being black and being a woman–those are the true uppity Negroes.  

An uppity Negro was one who didn’t mind using their status to take a stand.  To make the contemporary connection, in the vein of DuBois’ “talented tenth” concept and borrowing from it a bit, an uppity Negro uses their privilege and status to make a change–it is here where I identify as such.

The conversation of race and what that looks like in the United States has seen three dominating narratives since World War II.  Initially there was overarching fight for the laws to be changed to fulfill the basic citizenship, secondly the conversation shifted toward racial reconciliation and mostly conversations about race existed between the black and white racial dynamic.  In a post-9/11 world with Hispanics being the number one minority in this country, the conversation has shifted from racial reconciliation toward embracing diversity–all of which was accelerated with the presidency of Barack Obama.

As far as the black and white relations in this country, Obama’s presidency raised the racial specter of uppityness.  Even a U.S. Representative from a rural Georgia district had no issues going on record calling Obama “uppity.”

My intent is to use my gifts, graces and whatever other smattering of talents that I have been blessed with to be able to make uncomfortable those things that need to be unsettled, provide a salve to those things that need to be saved and to unashamedly embrace my blackness as defined by me.

7 thoughts on “What Is an Uppity Negro?

  1. you are an educated free thinking, gifted brother with a deep theological undergirding. You are an intellectual thermostat, Press on beautiful brother. .J. Alfred Smith Sr.

  2. Good young man stand up for the under dog the older people want. There are to many black and white people still stuck in the slave world covering up wrong to save face passing the buck because Mr Or Mrs are giving this and that to a Church a Building fund or whatever. The devil is ruling men with Money as they say Money talks but Money curupts. The big shots and the so call money people are selfish people we have come a long way but we still have a long way to go.

    Young man are standing up for what God would have you to do. Stand up and stand out for what some others so call Chirstian want do because they want to tiptoe around things to keep their good standing in the people’s eyes instead of God’s. Some pastors of Church are being control by men on boards with money preaching what they want to hear keeping in good standing with them in order to keep their Church building funds coming in instead of standing up for the people and preaching help for young people in today’s world they forget that they were once young preach about what will help young people today and please stop sugar coating the bad that is going on in the Churches.

    They say Church is a hospital but the people do not Get shots and the nasty tasting medicine, They get ice cream and cake because Preachers may step on toes and they have to surly obey thier’s Boards.They will never get well if they have cake and ice cream instead of the medicine they need. This is why the world today is still White and Black and not just God’s Children because the world needs young people to think like you Stand up and be counted like Martin Luther King Jr. and DuBois Stand for Right and Please DONOT let the devil get in the way with Money. Love

  3. I read this introduction with great interest. One of the major failings of the country I love has been the persistent betrayal of its ideals in regard to its black citizens. In Vietnam, I had the honor of serving with African and European Americans who exemplified courage and honor. I had the burden of writing parents when five of my brothers in arms died in the course of a furious battle. As I said to myself then, “Now I know the Cong is right. We are all Americans.” It is time and long past that white Americans be as good as their best words and recognize the full humanity and citizenship of our sisters and brothers from other mothers.

  4. I came across this blog just now while I was trying to find a suitable image of Barack Obama to frame and display in my house. Many images, while they didn’t surprise me, so shocked me I felt shame for the white “race” whose members manipulated his image to show their hate, fear, and disregard for him and all black people. As a “white” woman living in far west Texas, this site is a most welcome relief from he hatred I see and hear everyday. As a “white” woman, I am fully aware of the immunity I carry from that hate and derision. I look forward to reading all the Uppity Negro talk you wish to write and publish on this brave and necessary page. Thank you. Margaret

  5. Many years ago, I had a tee shirt that read “Uppity Women Unite”. I think it’s time to bring it back. Please continue to send me your publications.

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