Evolution of race categories in U.S. Census forms

For The New York Times, K.K. Rebecca Lai and Jennifer Medina show the changing checkboxes over the past couple centuries:

Over the centuries, the census has evolved from one that specified broad categories — primarily “free white” people and “slaves” — to one that attempts to encapsulate the country’s increasingly complex demographics. The latest adaptation proposed by the Biden administration in January seeks to allow even more race and ethnicity options for people to describe themselves than the 2020 census did.

What we measure and how we measure is a reflection of what we’ve cared about.