The Physical Form and Growth of the American Negro

The Physical Form and Growth of the American Negro

Anthropologischer Anzeiger
Volume 4, Number 4 (1927)
pages 293-316

Melville J. Herskovits

(With 17 Tables and 17 Figures)

The series which is represented in this paper is made up of 5,539 American Negroes, comprising individuals of both sexes and all ages from one year to adult-hood, (this latter class including all persons who are twenty-years of age and above). The measurements, the averages and variabilities of which are given below in the tables, were taken, with the exception of one group, during the past three years in New York City; in Washington, D.C.; among the rural population of eastern West Virginia; at Nashville, Tenn.; and at Tuskegee, Ala. The exception which may be noted is a series of 351 individuals, measured by the late Professor [Felix] von Luschan in eight cities of the south of the United States, during the year 1915. This series is also composed of persons of both sexes and all ages, and, for the purpose in hand, is incorporated with the other series mentioned above.

It is important, in any consideration of the American Negro, to understand the use of the term. The word “Negro” is, biologically, a misnomer, for the African Negroes, brought to the United States as slaves, have crossed in breeding with the dominant White population, as well as with the aboriginal American Indian types with whom they came into contact, so that there is today only a small percentage of the American Negroes who may be considered Negro in the ordinary sense of the term. I have  discussed the extent to which this crossing has occurred, and the consequent hybrid character of the American Negro people of today, elsewhere, and it is therefore only necessary…

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