Little brown brother

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Little brown brother is a slang term used by Americans to refer to Filipinos during the period of U.S. colonial rule over the Philippines, following the Treaty of Paris between Spain and the United States, and the Philippine–American War. It was coined by William Howard Taft, the first American Governor-General of the Philippines (1901–1904) and later the 27th President of the United States. U.S. military men in the Philippines greeted the term with scorn.[1][2] The book Benevolent Assimilation recounts that Taft "assured President McKinley that 'our little brown brothers' would need 'fifty or one hundred years' of close supervision 'to develop anything resembling Anglo-Saxon political principles and skills'", and reports that the military greeted Taft's assertion, "that 'Filipinos are moved by similar considerations to those which move other men' with utter scorn."[3]

A 1961 book by Leon Wolff, titled Little Brown Brother and subtitled "How the United States purchased and pacified the Philippine Islands at the century's turn",[4] was awarded the 1962 Francis Parkman Prize by the American Historical Association as the best book in American history that year. A reissued 2001 edition of that book contains accounts of numerous atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers during the Philippine–American War.[5]

The term was not originally intended to be derogatory, nor an ethnic slur; instead, it is a reflection of paternalist racism, shared also by Theodore Roosevelt.[6]


  1. ^ Cashman, Sean Dennis (1998). America Ascendant: From Theodore Roosevelt to FDR in the Century of American Power, 1901–1945. NYU Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-8147-1566-6.
  2. ^ Beede, Benjamin R. (1994). The War of 1898, and U.S. Interventions, 1898–1934: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. pp. 532–533. ISBN 978-0-8240-5624-7.
  3. ^ Miller, Stuart Creighton (1984). Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899–1903. Yale University Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-300-03081-5.
  4. ^ Wolff, Leon (1961). Little Brown Brother: How the United States Purchased and Pacified the Philippine Islands at the Century's Turn. Doubleday.
  5. ^ Wolff, Leon (2006). Little Brown Brother. Wolff Productions. pp. 233–4, 252–4, 305–7, 318. ISBN 978-1-58288-209-3.
  6. ^ Pedrosa, Carmen N. (20 September 2009). "Paternalist racism". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 2018-12-18.

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