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UMKC Edits Its Writing Style to Capitalize ‘Black’

Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications updates reference to Black faculty, staff and students in UMKC style guide
"capitalize Black graphic" with lowecase b crossed out and uppercase B on top

Listening to feedback from members of our campus community, the UMKC Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications (MCom) changed its writing style guidelines to capitalize the ‘B’ in Black in reference to Black people, history and culture.

To capitalize or not to capitalize Black has been an ongoing discussion in cultural, academic and journalistic circles for many years. As the Black Lives Matter movement nationally has heated up that discussion, the UMKC marketing and communications staff, took note.

And decided to make a change.

The Associated Press (AP) Style Guide, the bible of writing and editing rules for most news and communications organizations, including MCom, has long called for lowercase “black” when referring to Black people, history and culture.

However, newspapers, journals, TV news programs and many companies have slowly begun the shift to capitalizing that reference over the years, more so in recent weeks. The AP announced its decision to change its longtime standard on June 19, also known as Juneteenth, the day commemorating the official end to slavery in the United States.

UMKC Law Professor Jamila Jefferson pointed out that trend, in a recent interview with MCom about some of her research.

MCom conducted some quick research and took the pulse of staff members. People noted some key developments:

  • Many large newsgathering organizations across the country -- USA Today, the LA Times, CNN, The AP and NBC, to name a few – have made the decision to capitalize.
  • Several journalists and scholars have called for AP to change its style guide in recent years. They announced the change on Friday, June 19.
  • This week, the influential National Association of Black Journalists announced that its plans to update its own guidelines.

“Many on our staff cited excellent reasons to make this shift,” said Anne Spenner, vice chancellor of Strategic Marketing and Communications. “Given our university’s desire to listen, learn and lead when it comes to matters of diversity and inclusion on our campus, this change makes sense for UMKC.”

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Published: Jun 23, 2020

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