The term may today be considered less politically correct and more unspecific terms such as "biracial" or "multiracial" may be preferred.
Terms for Partial-blacks
- Mulatto technically referred to someone half-black and half-white [50% black]. Often it referred unspecifically to someone with any black and white ancestry.
- Quadroon [25% black] usually referred to someone with three white grandparents and one black grandparent. A quadroon has a biracial (mulatto) parent (black and white) and one white parent.
- Octoroon [12.5% black] referred to someone with one great-grandparent who is of full black-African descent and seven great-grandparents who are white.
- Quintroon [6.25% black] is a rarely used term that refers to a person who is of one-sixteenth Black ancestry. A quintroon has one parent who is an octoroon and one white parent. Hexadecaroon, also meaning one-sixteenth Black, is a less common term for the same ethnic mix. Mestee was also used for a person with less than one-eighth Black ancestry.
Origin of Terms
The term “mulatto” is often derived from the Portuguese and Spanish word mulato, which itself is derived from mula, or mule (from Old Spanish; from Latin mūlus). This draws an analogy to the mule, which is the hybrid offspring of a horse and a donkey.
Some dictionaries and scholarly works trace the word's origins to the Arabic term muwallad which also has somewhat contested origins.
“Quadroon” is borrowed from Spanish cuarterón (ultimately from Latin quartus, “fourth”). “Octoroon” is modeled on this, from Latin octo, “eight” (or equivalently Greek ὀκτώ októ). Quintus is Latin “fifth”, but “quintroon” does not follow the same logic as the preceding: it refers to the number of generations-removed from the pure-black ancestor, rather than the racial proportion. The alternative “hexadecaroon”, from Greek hexadeka, “sixteen”, expresses this proportion directly.
- Barack Hussein Obama, (50% East-African Nilotic, 50% Northwest-European)
- W.E.B. DuBois
- Henry Louis Gates, (33% black, 66% white)
- Lawrence Dennis, American fascist (white father, mulatto mother)
- NOTE: The average self-described “black“ in the USA is now ~20% white.