1965]. But as black inferiority was at one time a near universal assumption in Eng.-speaking lands, the word in some cases could be used without deliberate insult. More sympathetic writers late 18c. and early 19c. seem to have used black (n.) and, after the American Civil War, colored person. Also applied by Eng. settlers to dark-skinned native peoples in India, Australia, Polynesia. The reclamation of the word as a neutral or positive term in black culture, often with a suggestion of "soul" or "style," is attested first in the Amer. South, later (1968) in the Northern, urban-based Black Power movement. Variant niggah, attested from 1925 (without the -h, from 1969), is found usually in situations where blacks use the word. Nigra (1944), on the other hand, reflects a pronunciation in certain circles of Negro, but meant to suggest nigger, and is thus deemed (according to a 1960 slang dictionary) "even more derog. than 'nigger.' " Slang phrase nigger in the woodpile attested by 1800; "A mode of accounting for the disappearance of fuel; an unsolved mystery" [R.H. Thornton, "American Glossary," 1912]. Nigger heaven, "the top gallery in a (segregated) theater" first attested 1878 in ref. to Troy, N.Y.
" 'You're a fool nigger, and the worst day's work Pa ever did was to buy you,' said Scarlett slowly. ... There, she thought, I've said 'nigger' and Mother wouldn't like that at all." [Margaret Mitchell, "Gone With the Wind," 1936]
Used in combinations (e.g. nigger-brown, nigger-head, nigger-toe) since 1840s for various dark brown or black hues or objects; euphemistic substitutions (e.g. Zulu) began to appear in these senses c.1917.