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African-American Hero Names

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an American hero, was named for a hero of his father’s, the religious reformer Martin Luther. King and his father were both originally named Michael, until the family traveled to Germany in the 1930s and King Sr. decided to change both his own name and his son’s to honor the original Martin Luther.

Despite Dr. King‘s stature in our country, few African-Americans today choose to name their children after him — perhaps because both Martin and Luther are a tad dated and refer so closely to the earlier white hero.

But other African-American heroes, historic and modern, from politics as well as sports and the arts, do inspire thousands of namesakes who can use their famous names as a guiding light for their lives.

Here are some African-American hero names that have been popular in recent years, along with a few fresh ideas:

AALIYAH
BOOKER T. Washington
COLIN Powell
DIKEMBE Mutombo
Duke ELLINGTON
HARRIET Tubman
HENRY (HANK) Aaron
IMANI
JACKIE Robinson
JADA Pinkett Smith
JESSE Owens
Michael JORDAN
KANYE West
KIMORA Lee Simmons
LANGSTON Hughes
LeBRON James
Dr. MAE Jemison (astronaut)
MALCOLM X
Nelson MANDELA
MAYA Angelou
MEKHI Phifer
MYA
PHILLIS Wheatley (early writer)
ROSA Parks
SERENA Williams
SHAQUILLE O’Neal
Sojourner TRUTH
TYRA Banks
VENUS Williams
George WASHINGTON Carver
ZADIE Smith
ZORA Neale Hurston

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New York Baby Names

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Having a baby in New York City is different from having one anywhere else, and that includes choosing a name.

The most popular New York baby names are a departure from the popular names in the rest of the country, for one thing. Daniel tops the boys’ chart for the very first time in the 2007 New York City name popularity statistics, with Jayden rising to number two. Sorry, Mayor Bloomberg, but Michael has now fallen from the top spot to number 3 for the first time in 50 years. Isabella and Sophia tied for number one for girls, unseating Ashley and Emily.

Other names that are higher on the New York popularity list than they are in the rest of the country include, for girls: Rachel, Chloe, Angelina, and Esther, and for boys, Justin, Sebastian, and David.

The reason? The diverse ethnic population accounts for much of the unique mix of New York baby names. One of the few locales that breaks down name popularity by ethnicity, names high on the list for Hispanic babies born in New York City include Angel, Luis, and Jose for boys; Mia, Angelina, and Sofia for girls.

African-American parents differed from those of other ethnic backgrounds in favoring names of black celebrities. Jada, Imani and Aaliyah were high on the girls’ popularity list, while Elijah and Isaiah were popular for boys.

The Asian popularity list featured some counterintuitive ethnic favorites. The number one name for Asian baby boys is Ryan, for example, with Kevin, Vincent, and Ivan also ranking high. For girls, Tiffany, Fiona, and Winnie, a name that doesn’t even break the national top 1000, are popular.

And then there are names on the New York City list popular among Hasidic Jewish parents that are virtually unheard of elsewhere in the country: Malky, Raizy, and Shira for girls; Moishe, Chaim, and Menacham for boys. Plus ethnic choices such as Fatoumata, Xin, Tatiana, and Mohamed that reflect New York’s special mix.

But New York wouldn’t truly be New York without a range of sophisticated names as well. Names favored by New York parents and found here more often than in other parts of the country include such refined choices as Sebastian, Julian, and Henry for boys, and Alexandra, Charlotte, and Alice for girls. Maximus and Giuliana (yes, Giuliana) have an only-in-New York quality, though Rudy was not to be found.

Of course, beyond the most popular list, there are names that are trendy in hip New York that are still rarely heard in most parts of the country. Oscar, Ruby, Atticus, and Isla may be bordering on overexposed in Tribeca and Park Slope, but might still be radical choices west of the Hudson River.

New Yorkers chose a range of place names for their children, including Dakota, Sierra, Asia and Paris. But in an ironic twist, Brooklyn, number 57 nationwide, is nowhere among them.

Chelsea is one New York neighborhood name that does show up on the popularity list, just outside the Top 100. New York parents — or fans of the city — in search of more original local choices might want to consult the list of New York baby names based on the city neighborhoods.

This post appears in somewhat different form in the current issue of Big Apple Parent and can be found online at nymetroparents.com.

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