April 13th, 2015

Historically accurate but non-offensive words for African Americans in 1940s US

Setting: 1941, USA, before Pearl Harbor

Googled: I searched through the writingwithcolor tumblr (and they're not taking Asks at the moment) and I googled my subject line but didn't come up with much except for words that ARE offensive

I'm writing a detective story taking place the summer before Pearl Harbor. I was planning for a PI that my main character goes to for a job to be African American, but then it occurred to me that "African American" may not be a historically accurate term for the 1940s. I'm trying to include diversity in my cast so I'd rather not make him white - but since it was a time of segregation and discrimination, I can't just have her gloss over his race either. However, she is a polite woman and would not needlessly offend him if she can avoid it. What terms could I use that are accurate to the 40s but aren't automatically associated with a racial slur?