What is the accepted custom regarding capitalization when it comes to "White" and "Black" when referring to race, whether they are being used as nouns or adjectives?

  • See the useful historical overview by Ken Greenwald (which is unfortunately too detailed to summarize in this posting) of the various designations that have been used for black people down the years. – Erik Kowal May 30 '14 at 4:46

According to CMS, when referring to racial categories, use whites or white people, blacks or black people, both of which are written in lower case.

Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, 8.39, p. 402.

However, according to APA, racial and ethnic groups are designated by proper nouns and are capitalized: Black and White.

APA Publication Manual, 6th edition, 3.14, p. 75.

Therefore, follow the style guide used in whatever discipline or genre you are writing.


Racial and ethnic groups are designated by proper nouns and are capitalized. Therefore, use Black and White instead of black and white (the use of colors to refer to other human beings is currently considered pejorative and should not be used). Unparallel designations (e.g., African Americans and Whites; Asian Americans and Black Americans) should be avoided because one group is described by color while the other group is described by cultural heritage (American Psychological Association 2012).

APA. (2012) Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

(Sixth edition). (p. 75) Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

  • Quotes must use some form of quote format (this time I fixed it for you). Other than that, this is a very relevant answer. – Laurel Apr 5 '18 at 19:47

protected by tchrist Apr 6 '18 at 1:03

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