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Literary Baby Names: A tribute to Maya Angelou

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By Erin Waldron

This past week, America said a sad goodbye to one of the most beautiful and influential voices of our time when poet, author, educator, actress, director, and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou passed away on May 28. While we mourn her loss and reflect on her countless accomplishments and the extraordinary life she lived, here are just a few ideas for those who may consider honoring Dr. Angelou‘s legacy for a 2014 baby. If you are expecting a new addition this year, would you choose any of the following for your child’s first or middle name spot? I would love to hear more of your suggestions in the comments.

Marguerite: This is Maya Angelou‘s birth name, which was shortened to “Maya” as a nickname from her older brother. Marguerite, the French form of Margaret, has been off the charts since 1970, but is on the verge of a comeback, currently at Number 406 in Nameberry.

Ann/Annie: Maya‘s given middle name has been reported variously as Ann and Annie.  Ann, a very popular middle name, would also make a lovely first name choice. The name of the mother of the Virgin Mary, Ann has been considered a classic for centuries. And Annie is one of the oldest, most enduring, nickname names.

Maya: The nickname ‘Maya‘ derived from Angelou‘s older brother, Bailey Jr, calling her “my sister” or “mya sister.” Maya has been growing in popularity and is now Number 72.

Angelou: While Angela, Angelo, and Lou would all work just fine as a tribute name, Angelou is lovely as is, with just the right amount of “something different” to set it apart. I can see this catching on in the wake of Maya Angelou‘s passing.

Georgia: Just one of many great accomplishments, Maya Angelou‘s Georgia, Georgia, released in 1972, was the first screenplay written by a black woman to be filmed. Angelou wrote the screenplay and composed the score. Her script was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Bird/Birdie: In honor of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou‘s most well-known publication. Birdie was recently used by Busy Phillips for her second daughter, and of course there was Lady Bird Johnson.

Poet/Poetry: Going straight to the point, this generic English word name recently used by actress Soleil Moon Frye, could potentially make a nice middle name choice.

Justice: Not only did Angelou appear as a character in John Singleton’s 1993 film Poetic Justice , but with the definition “a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people,” this is a perfectly fitting virtue name to honor someone like Angelou who represents all of these things.

Delta: If you can get past the airline reference, this name represents Down in the Delta, the first feature film Angelou directed in 1996, and also has a nice Southern feel to it (Angelou grew up in Arkansas and Missouri).

Louise: Maya‘s first true friend and only positive escape from the reality of her life, was pal Louise Kendricks in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Louise, Louisa and Eloise are all making comebacks, Louise ranking Number 198 on Nameberry.

Bertha: Another influential person in Maya‘s life, from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Mrs. Bertha Flowers was a black aristocrat who took a special interest in her, encouraging her love of literature. The name Bertha has a lovely meaning “bright, glorious” but struggles to move past negative associations such as “Big Bertha.”

Vivian: The name of Maya‘s mother, Vivian Baxter. Although far from a perfect parent, Vivian was a beautiful, strong, and practical woman who tried her best to make sure her children were well cared for. Without Vivian Baxter, the world would have never been graced with the wisdom and talent of the great Maya Angelou.

Erin is a busy stay-at-home mom of two, with one more on the way, living in the Boston area. She enjoys crafting, traveling, and spending time outdoors with her family. Currently her nights are spent searching Nameberry for the perfect name for the new addition arriving this fall.

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