Green’s Dictionary of Slang

backra n.

also bockra, buccra(h), buckra(h)
[black patois of Surinam bakra, master. This in turn was based on Efik (the language of the Calabar coast) mba, all + kara to encompass, to get round, to master (a subject); thus mbakara, makara, a white man, a European, with a parallel meaning of a demon, a powerful and superior being (cf. ofay n.). Note the popular (if erroneous) ety. back raw; the white man was known for his beatings]
(W.I./US black)

1. (also baccararo, baccra, backearay, bakra, buckruh) a white man.

Behn Oroonoko (1886) 67: As Oroonoko afterwards said, he had little reason to credit the words of a Backearay.
The Importance of Jamaica etc. 20: Scots Bacceros (which they call all white Men) all know one another, but English Bacceros no know one another.
[UK]C. Dibdin Jr. ‘Kickaraboo’ in Universal Songster (1825) I 29/1: When Massa Death kick him into the grave, / He no spare negro, buckra, nor massa, nor slave.
[WI]J.B. Moreton West India Customs and Manners 78: Their black husbands, or poor bockra partners, being neglected.
[UK]C. Dibdin Yngr Song Smith 48: ‘Ah , massa,’ replied a black who had been some time a spectator, ‘Buckra steal black heathen man to make him good Christian.’.
[WI]M. Lewis 28 Apr. in Journal of a West India Proprietor (1834) 308: O ki! [...] me know now what makes the buckras all so white!
Memoirs of the Late Capt. Hugh Crow 9: Three bit more for ’em da; I have ’em negra buy buckra now.
[US]T. Haliburton Letter-bag of the Great Western (1873) 16: One buccra says, Steward, I can’t drink dis wine, it is werry poor stuff; what de debil do you mean by giving me such trash as dis, he no fit to drink at all?
[UK]Hants Advertiser 7 Aug. 4/5: ‘You see, Massa Buccra, mass gib Quashie ten-penny-bit’.
[US]Bartlett Dict. Americanisms.
[US]W.G. Simms Forayers 107: You see, he’s a gentleman what don’t blieb berry much in de rights ob poor buckrah.
[UK]Capt. Clutterbuck’s Champagne 51: Who you call ugly? My king! de hansummest young sojer buckra in de harmy – he, he ugly!! chaw!
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 151: Buckcra, which, on the African coast, is universally applied to white men, meaning originally ‘a spirit, a powerful being,’ and is used in that application throughout the Southern States.
in F. Ober Ornithological Eye in Hulme & Whitehead (1992) 247: One time, six Carib kill um white gen’lemn, but dey not see he serbant hide in de bush. When serbant get ’way he tell soldier, ‘Carib kill one buckra, my massa’.
[UK]C. Chesnutt ‘Goophered Grapevine’ in Conjure Woman (1899) 14: Den dey wuz a settlement er free niggers en po’ buckrahs down by de Wim’l’ton Road.
[WI]J. Speirs Proverbs of British Guiana 11: Baccra no boy, niggah no fool. Baccra no talk, niggah no sabby.
[WI]G.H. McLellan Phases of Barbados Life 123: He kept chanting with every movement of the bow, ‘Good enough music for poor backra’.
[WI]Anderson & Cundall in Jamaica Proverbs and Sayings vi: Hi! wha dis Bockra get all dem old time saying!
[US]C. McKay in Constab Ballads n.p.: [song title] Quashie to Buccra.
[WI]H. De Lisser Jane’s Career (1971) 138: Y’u better off than poor buckra.
[WI]J.G. Cruickshank Black Talk 4: He wanted to talk after the Bakra. He was in Bakra country now. [Ibid.] 6: Ba-kara came to the West Indies very early. In an old book on Barbadoos – ‘Great Newes from the Barbadoes’ (1676) – a Negro is reported as saying he would have no hand in killing ‘the Baccararoes or White Folks’.
[US](con. late 19C) A. Gonzales Black Border 20: Wunnuh haffuh wu’k ’cause wunnuh blan blonx to po’ buckruh.
[US]Du Bose Heyward Porgy (1945) 41: ‘De buckra sho gots nigger figgered out tuh a cent!’ said Peter philosophically.
[US]Nat. Geog. Mag. Jan. 26/2: When blackman tief, him tief half a bit; When bockra tief, him tief whole plantation.
[US]Shelby & Stoney Po’ Buckra 15: Roun’ here dey is four kinds o’ people. Two kind o’ white folks; quality-buckra, and po’ buckra – da’s crackers; all kind o’ colored folks – dem is all niggers.
[US]S. Lewis Kingsblood Royal (2001) 31: I keep telling these colored agitators [...] that they do more harm to my race than any mean buckra.
[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 7: Whites called them ‘white trash’ and Negroes ‘po’ buckra’.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]D. Dalby ‘The African Element in Amer. Eng.’ in Kochman Rappin’ and Stylin’ Out 178: buckra – ‘white man’.
[US]J.L. Gwaltney Drylongso 221: Now, bless Gawd! a lotta blackfolks try to do every fool thing they see these buckras do!
[US]Eble Sl. and Sociability 80: Etymologically, only 6 of the 435 have definite or plausible origins in African languages: buckra ‘white man’.

2. (also bochro, bockro, buckera, bukkra) a master, a boss.

[UK] ‘Creoles of Jamaica’ in Holloway & Black II (1979) 172: The Negro Wench cries, / Massa Buckra will you buy any fish with one eye.
[Ire]W. Macready Irishman in London I ii: Bockro read great big book, tell him how he can be good [...] Poor black no understand read.
[US]A.B. Lindsley Yankee Notions 12: Me no like dis white country, no like the buckrah.
[WI]Montgomery; or, The West Indian Adventurer II 91: ‘Him no mind that, sometime,’ said Quaco; ‘him cann’t fum buckera, but he will fum me, if we tand too long in a pass.’.
[WI]S.A. Mathews ‘Dialogue between Uncoo Cudjoe & Buddy Quow’ in Willshire Squeeze 80: Dis yaw time no tan lek biffo – bockra wok muse bruck ee haut.
[UK]Marly; Planter’s Life in Jamaica 47: The house-boy was dispatched to the negro houses to tell Sammy, and [...] Cudjoe, and Scipio, to come to the Buckra house.
[WI]T. Foulks Eighteen Months in Jamaica 88: Some negroes at the commencement of the insurrection went to a Maroon station, and asked if on the event of ‘nigger fighting Buckra, Maroon would take dem part?’.
[US]T. Haliburton Letter-bag of the Great Western (1873) 14: De captain he man-o’-war buckra, and dey is all cussed stiff, and most too big men for dere breeches.
[US]W.G. Simms Sword and the Distaff 511: You only guine to wussen yourse’f, buckrah,—ef you is a buckrah.
[WI]Trinidad Sentinel 8 Apr. n.p.: Lek backra da tek fou he da Ice House wid Soda.
[US]T. Haliburton Season Ticket 250: Now, Pompey, dere is one natur ob nigger, and one natur of Massa Buckra.
[UK]C. Rampini Letters from Jamaica 43: By am bye buckra (gentleman’s) dog catch billy-goat by him ear.
[UK]Soldiers’ Stories and Sailors’ Yarns 340: My, how him hansom, dat buccrah!
[US]‘Cad McBallastir’ Society as I Have Foundered It 43: Interjuce me to yo’ big bukkra Nobs!
[WI]‘Tom Redcam’ One Brown Gal 29/2: I know how de Gubbernor, say to him [...] ‘Jam and blarst yuh, sah; blarst and jam your eyes’ [...] for a so dem biggest Backra is habituate to swear.
[US]Du Bose Heyward Porgy (1945) 52: Ain’t yuh hear de Boss laugh? When nigger mek de buckra laugh, den he know he done won.
[US]Z.N. Hurston Mules and Men (1995) 76: We better hurry on to work befo’ de buckra get in behind us.
[WI]U. Marson ‘Stone Breakers’ in Bennett et al. Anancy Stories and Dialect Verse 98: De big backra car dem / A lick up de dus’ in a we face.
[WI](con. 1940s) L. Bennett ‘Tan a Yuh Yard’ in Jamaica Labrish 94: Ef backra even pos’ ticket / Come gi yuh, bwoy refuse it!
[UK]A. Salkey ‘Caribbean Petchary’ Jamaica (1983) 92: Through Quashie’s Grievances, / Baptist’s Pleadings, / Bogle’s squashing Backra’s Rulings.
[UK]N. Farki Countryman Karl Black 65: Profit-making reserve for the white ‘backra’.

3. (US black) one who, while black, moves in white society and sees themselves as the white man’s equal.

[US]Van Vechten Nigger Heaven 208: Are you white or coloured tonight? Buckra, of course.

In phrases

walking backra (n.) [lit. a ‘walking white man’, i.e. one who had no horse and was thus forced to walk, was considered of the lowest rank] (W.I.)

a poor white.

P. Sherlock W.I. Nations 182: The white man who could not afford a horse or who worked in the fields was a walking backra or cha-cha or red leg.