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Are you one-fourth or one-eighth African? The U.S. Census wanted to know
There’s a knock on the door.
It’s Monday, June 2, 1890, the first day the U.S. Census takers began their monthlong gathering of data that would provide unique, one-time information forever etched in our historical documents. The questioner posed several questions to the household representative. Among those worth noting was the following:
Question #4 ask whether the races of the household inhabitants are “white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese or Indian.” The Census questioner could no longer look at the household and answer the question. It was up to the household member to self-disclose the information. It was the first and last time that the “quadroon and octoroon” race descriptions were asked on Census documentations.
According to a National Public Radio report, “the government concluded: “These figures are of little value.” “Quadroon” and “octoroon” have never been used again for the census.”