Black Buck

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In post-Reconstruction United States, Black Buck or “Black Bull” was a racial slur used to describe a certain type of African American man. In particular, the caricature was used to describe black men who absolutely refused to bend to the law of white authority and were seen as irredeemably violent, rude, and lecherous.


According to popular stereotypes during the post-Reconstruction era, "Black Buck" was a black man (usually muscular or tall) who defies white will and is largely destructive to American society. One would usually be hot-tempered, excessively violent, unintelligent, and sexually attracted to white women.[1] This stereotype was used as a pretext for lynching and other forms of violence against black men.

Examples in media[edit]

D.W. Griffith's motion picture The Birth of a Nation (1915) is perhaps one of the best known examples of the use of the "Black Buck" stereotype in the media.[2] In the film, a former slave named Gus (described by the filmmaker as "a renegade, a product of the vicious doctrines spread by the carpetbaggers") attempts to chase down (and, apparently, rape) a white woman named Flora.

Rather than allow herself to be assaulted by Gus, she throws herself to her death. A spiral of events occurs which then culminates with a state militia (led by the mulatto protégé of a local Congressman) clashes with the Ku Klux Klan (portrayed by the film as heroic figures), with the Klan being ultimately victorious.

The film sparked a national uproar, from white people who feared the film's events to be prophetic truth, and from black people who were horrified by the portrayal of their race.[2] The film was largely responsible for the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan during the early 20th century.[2]

In the movie Silverado (1985), Danny Glover's character is called "Buck" by the racist saloon owner when he spots him in his establishment.

Use by white supremacists[edit]

David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, was quoted in The Sun newspaper of Wichita, Kansas (23 April 1975) as saying, "White people don't need a law against rape, but if you fill this room up with your normal black bucks, you would, because niggers are basically primitive animals."[3]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Thompson, Carlyle Van (1 January 2004). The Tragic Black Buck: Racial Masquerading in the American Literary Imagination. Peter Lang. ISBN 978-0-8204-6206-6.
  • Patricia A. Turner, Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and Their Influence on Culture (Anchor Books, 1994).
  • Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (Continuum International, 2001)


  1. ^ Laufs, Stefanie (October 2013). Fighting a Movie with Lightning : "The Birth of a Nation" and the Black Community. Diplomica Verlag. p. 56. ISBN 978-3-95489-151-1.
  2. ^ a b c Bogle, Donald (24 October 2001). Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, Fourth Edition. Continuum. pp. 10–16. ISBN 978-0-8264-1267-6.
  3. ^ "David Duke: In His Own Words" (PDF). Anti-Defamation League. 2012. Retrieved April 24, 2020.