Different societies apply differing criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and these social constructs have also changed over time. In a number of countries, societal variables affect classification as much as skin color, and the social criteria for "blackness" vary. For example, in North America the term black people is not necessarily an indicator of skin color or ethnic origin, but is instead a socially based racial classification related to being African-American, with a family history typically associated with institutionalized slavery. In the United Kingdom, "black" was historically equivalent with "person of color", a general term for non-European peoples. In South Africa and Latin America, mixed-race people are generally not classified as "black". In other regions such as Australasia, settlers applied the term "black" or it was used by local populations with different histories and ancestral backgrounds.
The Romans interacted with and later conquered parts of Mauretania, an early state that covered modern Morocco, western Algeria, and the Spanish cities Ceuta and Melilla during the classical period. The people of the region were noted in Classical literature as Mauri, which was subsequently rendered as Moors in English.
Numerous communities of dark-skinned peoples are present in North Africa, some dating from prehistoric communities. Others are descendants of the historical Trans-Saharan trade in peoples and/or, and after the Arab invasions of North Africa in the 7th century, descendants of slaves from the Arab Slave Trade in North Africa.
According to Dr. Carlos Moore, resident scholar at Brazil's University of the State of Bahia, in the 21st century Afro-multiracials in the Arab world, including Arabs in North Africa, self-identify in ways that resemble multi-racials in Latin America. He claims that black-looking Arabs, much like black-looking Latin Americans, consider themselves white because they have some distant white ancestry.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had a mother who was a dark-skinned Nubian Sudanese woman and a father who was a lighter-skinned Egyptian. In response to an advertisement for an acting position, as a young man he said, "I am not white but I am not exactly black either. My blackness is tending to reddish".
Due to the patriarchal nature of Arab society, Arab men, including during the slave trade in North Africa, enslaved more black women than men. They used more black female slaves in domestic service and agriculture than males. The men interpreted the Qur'an to permit sexual relations between a male master and his female slave outside of marriage (see Ma malakat aymanukum and sex), leading to many mixed-race children. When an enslaved woman became pregnant with her Arab master's child, she was considered as umm walad or "mother of a child", a status that granted her privileged rights. The child was given rights of inheritance to the father's property, so mixed-race children could share in any wealth of the father. Because the society was patrilineal, the children took their fathers' social status at birth and were born free.