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Painting by Miguel Cabrera, 18th century, New Spain .
Text: "A black woman and a Spaniard make a mulatto - Black 1. Spaniard 2. Mulatto 3."

Mulatto is a now rarely used racist term for a person whose ancestors (especially the parents ) had partly black and partly white skin .


The name mulatto goes back to the Spanish and Portuguese word mulato and was used in the 16th and 17th centuries. Century adopted into German. There are three different possibilities to find the origin of the word.

  1. In oriental studies , going back to the Spanish linguist Eguilaz, the Arabic word muwallad is believed to be the origin of mulatto . Muwallad (plural: muwalladin ) denotes a person with parents of different origins. In medieval Moorish Spain , the descendants of locals and Arabs were called muwalladin .
  2. The Real Academia Española states that mulato goes back to the word mulo / mula = mule for the cross between horse and donkey, which in turn is derived from the Latin word mulus with the same meaning. This derivation is followed by the Duden, the German-language lexicons and scholars. Muleto or mulato originally referred to a young mule.
  3. According to the authors Marco Carini and Flora Macallan, the origin could also be found in Madagascar . The island of St. Marie (today's Nosy Boraha ), located 18 km northwest of Madagascar, served as a trading center for many pirates from the 17th century. Since the mostly light-skinned pirates enjoyed a very high priority among the islanders - lots of money, good warriors - it was not uncommon for marriages between the light-skinned pirates and the dark-skinned islanders. The children from these connections then even formed an independent social group from the 18th century, the Malatas or mulattos.

Use of the term

Particularly due to an association with mule, the term mulatto is rejected by many, as the alleged comparison with an animal is perceived as humiliating. In the past, there was a notion that mulattos were sterile like mules.

Historical use of the term

The term mulatto was used in the Castas system , into which people in the Spanish colonial empire were divided according to racial criteria, as well as in the parlance of the French and English colonies in America and the USA, only for the first generation of descendants of blacks and whites ( see picture). There were separate names for further generations of the mixture.

In the USA , too , the term mulatto was widespread until the so-called drop rule, according to which anyone with a black ancestor ( “a drop of blood” ) was considered black. This principle entered legislation and spread to the general public consciousness. As a result, from 1930 onwards , mulattoes were no longer listed as a separate population group in the census . Although the law has long since abolished the one-drop rule, it is still anchored in the consciousness of the American population, both among whites and African-Americans . People with one white and one black parent, or with just one black grandparent, are usually viewed as negro ( "black" ). A general awareness of a mixed race has only increased since the 1980s, and the census now also offers the further possibility of classifying oneself as biracial (“two-racial”) or multiracial (“multiracial”).


  1. ^ A b c Susan Arndt: Colonialism, Racism and Language. Critical considerations of German African terminology. Article, September 2004, p. 4 (published by the Federal Agency for Civic Education )
  2. See entry in Duden , accessed on August 4, 2014.
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, Leiden 1993
  4. Leopoldo Eguilaz y Yanguas (1886): Glosario de las palabras españolas (castellanas, catalanas, gallegas, mallorquinas, pottugueses, valencianas y bascongadas), de orígen oriental (árabe, hebreo, malayo, persa y turco). Granada, La Lealtad, 1886
  5. a b Petra Schaeber: The power of drums. Dissertation at the Free University of Berlin, July 2003, p. 31 f.


  • Susan Arndt (Ed.): AfrikaBilder. Studies on racism in Germany. Unrast, Münster 2006, ISBN 3-89771-028-5 .
  • Susan Arndt and Antje Hornscheidt (eds.): Africa and the German language. A critical reference work. ISBN 978-3-89771-424-3 .
  • Katharina Oguntoye , May Ayim , Dagmar Schultz (eds.): Show your colors . Afro-German women on the trail of their history. Orlanda Frauenverlag, Berlin 1986, ISBN 3-922166-21-0 .
  • Katharina Oguntoye: An Afro-German Story. On the living situation of Africans and Afro-Germans in Germany from 1884 to 1950. Hoho-Verlag Hoffmann, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-929120-08-9 .
  • Peggy Piesche, Michael Küppers, Ani Ekpenyong (eds.): May Ayim Award - First international black German literature prize 2004. Orlanda Frauenverlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-936937-21-4 .
  • Fatima El-Tayeb: Black Germans. The discourse on “race” and national identity 1890–1933. Campus, Frankfurt / Main 2001, ISBN 3-593-36725-4 .
  • Grada Kilomba: The Colonization of the Self - the Black's Place. In: Hito Steyerl. Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodriguez (Ed.): Does the subaltern speak German? Migration and Post-Colonial Criticism. Unrast, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-89771-425-6 .
  • Grada Kilomba: "Don't You Call Me Neger!" - The N-Word, Trauma and Racism. In: ADB, cyberNomads (Ed.): TheBlackBook. Germany's moults. IKO, Frankfurt / Main 2004, ISBN 3-88939-745-X .
  • Grada Kilomba: Plantation Memories. Episodes of Everyday Racism . Münster, 2008. ISBN 978-3-89771-485-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Mulatto  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations