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Is “African American” Capitalized? When to Capitalize It

Is “African American” Capitalized? When to Capitalize It

In the United States, only six races have official recognition. These races are White, American Indians, Asian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and African American. But most people have a hard time writing about these races in sentences, especially when it comes to capitalization; so is African American capitalized?

A resounding yes! You should capitalize “African American” each time you use it in a sentence. This is the English rule according to the various English manuals. The phrase “African American” is a proper noun, and when you write it like any other proper noun, embrace capitalization. 

There are numerous questions and misconceptions about when to capitalize races, especially “African American,” which is widely accepted when referring to people of color. However, it is important to note that this phrase is a proper noun. However, read more to better understand how to write “African American” and any exceptions to the common rule.

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Rules for Capitalizing African Americans? When to Capitalize

The first rule to note is to capitalize all the first words in a sentence. The rule is that you should always capitalize the first letter of the first word in a sentence. So, when writing “African Americans,” this rule should also apply. 

The rule applies regardless of the word you are writing or the writing style you are using. Here are some example sentences to learn from.

  • African Americans have been complaining about the injustice they get with the law for years.
  • African Americans have been typecast as entertainers, criminals, or servants.
  • African Americans have to work twice as hard as people from other races to get recognition.

Capitalize Words in a Title

Another capitalization rule is that you should capitalize most words in a title. It does not matter if you are writing a title of a book, movie, or any other works in between; most of the words should be capitalized. If you are wondering, the same case applies when referring to “African American.”

So, if you are writing a title with the phrase “African American,” ensure that these words are in capital letters. You should capitalize all nouns, verbs, and adjectives when writing titles. Since “African American” is a noun, you should capitalize both words. This should apply even if the phrase is used in the last part of the title.

Example sentences:

  • We are reporting on “How the American Civil War Affected African Americans.”
  • Have you read the book “The Americans and the Identity of African Americans?”
  • Have you done your research on African Americans and the American Revolution?

When Referring to Nationality

The names of nationalities and languages ought to be proper nouns. So, each time you write them down, they should be capitalized. This applies no matter where you put them in a sentence. This is another capitalization rule that applies no matter the type of writing style that you use.

Since the phrase “African American” is a nationality, it means that each time you write the phrase down, it should appear in upper cases. That is the case when writing about most nationalities. It is vital to note that both phrases should be in uppercase.

Example sentences:

  • Some African Americans do not use sunblock regularly since their skin is not prone to sunburn.
  • My mother was mad because I did not have any African American culture at my wedding.
  • John blames his addiction to drugs for being an African American claiming that it was a cultural thing, yet, he knows that it is not true.

When the Phrase is Hyphenated

There was a time when the phrase African American was hyphenated both as a noun and an adjective. But as the English language evolved, the world’s hyphen seemed irrelevant, which is why most of the writing styles have dropped it. However, there are times when the words can be hyphenated when it is an adjective.

If you are writing the phrase African American with a hyphen, remember to write both these words in capital letters. A common error people make is to forget to capitalize the American part. This is an error since the word refers to people, so both the phrases should be in capital letters. You also need to understand that it’s not all the time that you will need to put a hyphen between these words.

Example sentences:

  • The way they acted the African-American skit was touching.
  • We were trying to name some of the best African-American films ever made.
  • Did you like the African-American stories that my grandmother was telling?

Exceptions for Capitalizing African Americans & When Not To Capitalize It

The English language has many writing rules, and most of them have exceptions. However, when capitalizing on African Americans, the phrase’s rule does not change. It does not matter your writing style or what you refer to; the phrases appear in capital letters. 

Remember, there is no exception to this rule. Let us emphasize this with a few examples of the capitalization of this word.

Example sentences.

  • They were all making fun of how African American mums sang with a lot of passion when they were in church.
  • Most people did not attend the launch of the new restaurants since the guest list did not include any African Americans.

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Some Edge Cases and More Alternative Rules When Capitalizing African Americans

One clear thing is that African American is an ethnicity like any other. So, that means that the same rules you use to write this ethnicity should also apply when writing African American. Remember that capitalizing the phrase “African American” is the one rule that does not change when writing the phrase.

Many people would assume that they can use the word in lower cases, especially in non-formal cases. Well, that’s not the case. Capitalize the word even when writing the word on social media or conversing casually with friends via text. Study these two examples to know the correct word uses.

Wrong Sentences:

  • He said that he wanted to showcase african american Literature.
  • After the first african american was elected, the celebration in America lasted for weeks.

Correct sentences:

  • He said that he wanted to showcase African American literature.
  • After the first African American was elected, the celebration in America lasted for weeks.

10 Example Sentences with Correct Capitalization of African American

When learning English phrases, you are likely to encounter words like African American. It is vital to know the best way to write the phrase when you do this. Here are examples of sentences with the term African American.

  • It is absurd how African Americans have a hard time finding employment up to this day.
  • Did you know that African Americans make up 12% of the population?
  • Their African American music is what has made them famous.
  • The story is about an African American doctor who married a white woman and the many challenges.
  • The late African-American dancer says that moving through the country has not been easy.
  • The day’s question was to name Americans that African Americans have invented.
  • Though she is white, she enjoys listening to African American music.
  • The neighbors did not seem to mind that the family which moved in was African American.
  • They were arrested for the crime they did not commit just because they were African American.
  • The remarks deeply offended many African-American communities.


The word African American usually refers to black Americans. However, most people have a hard time writing this phrase. The article has answered how to use the word and the reason behind each rule. Take some time to go through the various sentence examples so that you can learn the best way to write the phrase.