First African American Dictionary Introduced

Henry Louis Gates, the scholar who’s famous for his PBS genealogy show, “Finding Your Roots,” is spearheading the project to create the very first African American Dictionary.

Gates and his research team debuted the first ten of the entries in the New York Times on this week. They include “bussin,” “kitchen,” and “Aunt Hagar’s children.”

The team verified the etymology of the words by cross-referencing “lyrics from jazz, hip-hop, blues and R&B as well as letters, diaries, newspaper and magazine articles, Black Twitter, slave narratives and abolitionist writings. Individual entries will be explained using quotations pulled from Black literature, including examples from Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and Martin Luther King, Jr,” according to the New York Times.

The project started as a way to not only record the rich language that Black Americans created over time—considering how the system of slavery kept Black people from reading and stripped our indigenous African languages and dialects.

The research team will publish the first batch of 1,000 words and phrases by 2025, according to New York Times.

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