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Category: African-American baby names

black baby names

By Elisabeth Waugaman

African American naming traditions were dramatically influenced by slavery.

From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries between nine and twelve million Africans were shipped to the New World as slaves. Existing slave ship manifests for the Atlantic slave trade record numbers, gender, approximate age of slaves, and occasionally “nation” (tribal identity). Given names are only registered on slave ships after the beginning of the international abolitionist movement circa 1820.

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blkactmorgan

In the past we’ve commemorated Black History Month by celebrating the names of great figures in history and the civil rights struggle. This year we salute some of the notable thespians, some now sadly forgotten, who have contributed so much to the cultural fabric of this country—and of course paying particular attention to their distinctive names.

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blk-blogg

To commemorate Black History month, we’re looking today at the names of some of the less well known Civil Rights leaders and activists. We’re all familiar with the major figures— from Martin Luther King to Jesse Jackson to Rosa Parks–but our subjects here are some activists who played important roles but might not be as well remembered.
And, of course, since we’re also all about the names, we’ve selected those who— along with the better known Stokely Carmichael, Bayard Rustin, Medgar Evers and Thurgood Marshall– have intriguingly unusual appellations. Here, then, some out-of-the-ordinary black history baby names.

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Black History Names: Barrier Breakers

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Black history is filled with the extraordinary names of extraordinary achievers.  This being the first day of Black History Month, we thought we’d look back through African-American history, on the lookout for the (interesting) names of people who have made breakthroughs by being the first to achieve something, whether it be in the arena of goverment, Civil Rights, scholarship, the professions, sports or the arts.  It’s quite surprising to see how recently some of them occurred.

Here are some outstanding black history names:

GIRLS

  • Alexia Canada— first female African-American neurosurgeon (1984)
  • Althea Gibson—first black to win a major tennis title (1956) and first black woman to play on the Ladies PGA golf tour (1964)
  • Aretha Franklin—first black woman inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame (1986)
  • Aulana Peters—first black woman appointed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (1984)
  • Bessie Coleman—first black woman aviator (1921)
  • Biddy Mason—first known black female property owner in L.A. (1866)
  • Camilla Williams—first black woman to sing with the New York City Opera (1945)
  • Charlotta Bass—considered the first black woman newspaper publisher (1912), and the first African-American to run for vice-president (1952)
  • Condoleezza Rice –first female head of the National Security Council (2001), first black woman Secretary of State (2005)
  • Constance Baker Motley—first black woman federal judge (1966)
  • Cora M. Brown—first black woman in the US to be elected to a state senate (1952)
  • Della Reese—first black woman to host a TV variety show (1969)
  • Euzham Palcy—first black woman director of a feature film for a major studio (1989)
  • Dorothea Towles—first professional black woman model (1949)
  • Dorothy Dandridge—first black woman nominated for an Oscar in a leading role (1955)
  • Ella Fitzgerald—first black woman to win a Grammy (1959)
  • Gwendolyn Stewart King—first black woman commissioner of Social Security (1989)
  • Hazel Johnson—first black woman army general (1979)
  • Hazel Scott—first black entertainer to host her own TV show (1950)
  • Ida Rollins—the first black woman dentist (1890)
  • Jewel Plummer Cobb — the first black woman president of a California State University (1981)
  • Joycelyn (born Minnie) Elders –the first black female Surgeon General of the U.S. (1993)
  • Katherine Dunham—first black choreographer to work at the Metropolitan Opera House (1963)
  • Lorraine Hansberry—first African-American to win the NY Drama Critics Award (1959)
  • Lucy Ann Stanton—the first black woman college graduate (1850)
  • Maggie Lena Walker—first black woman bank president (1903)
  • Mamie Smith—first black woman to make a recording (1920)
  • Marvel Jackson Cooke—first full-time black reporter on a mainstream paper (1950)
  • Maude Rutherford—dancer who first introduced the Charleston on Broadway (1922)
  • Maya Angelou (born Marguerite) – first black woman to have a nonfiction bestseller (1970); first black inaugural poet (1993)
  • Michelle Obama–first African-American first lady (2009)
  • Minnie M. Geddings Cox—first black US postmistress (1891)
  • Minyon Moore—first black woman political director of the National Democratic Committee (1995)
  • Octavia Butler—the first published female black science fiction writer (1976)
  • Oprah Winfrey==first black woman to host a nationally syndicated weekday talk show (1986)

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In honor of the release of the 2009 list of most popular New York City baby names, Nameberry’s newest intern, Deanna Cullen, presents to you some surprising top contenders that owe their ascension in the ranks to some serious star power.

New York City baby names are not so different from those in the rest of the United States, but more celebrity names reach the top spots, according to the newly-released 2009 popularity list.

The most popular New York City baby names for girls for 2009 were:

  1. Isabella
  2. Sophia
  3. Mia
  4. Emily
  5. Olivia
  6. Madison
  7. Sarah
  8. Ashley
  9. Leah
  10. Emma

Those that did not break the national top ten – Sarah (#21), Ashley (#20), and Leah (#28) – still came awfully close.

Same went for the boys.

The most popular New York City baby names for boys in 2009 were:

  1. Jayden
  2. Daniel
  3. Ethan
  4. Michael
  5. David
  6. Justin
  7. Matthew
  8. Joshua
  9. Alexander
  10. Christopher

Those that did not break the national top ten, such as David (#14) and Matthew (#13), again came close, with only the third, Justin (#46), coming from behind.

Jayden, a name that was virtually unknown as of the 1990 Census and #194 in 2000, now ranks #1 in New York City and #8 in the nation. Although there is a Biblical Jadon, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith brought the name to national attention when they named their son Jaden.
Another famous Jayden is Britney Spears’ son, born in 2006. What more coverage can a kid – and a name – get than having Britney Spears as your mother?

Celebrities’ impact on naming trends is clear on the 2009 New York City baby names popularity list, which includes such names as:

New York City is one of the few locales that tallies baby name statistics by ethnicity, yielding some interesting results.

The Top Ten names for blacks is totally different, for girls, than it is for the overall Top Ten, reflecting the popularity of several African-American celebrities. That list:

  1. Madison
  2. Kayla
  3. Nevaeh
  4. Jada (Pinkett Smith)
  5. Malia (Obama)
  6. Makayla
  7. Aaliyah (the singer)
  8. London
  9. Arianna/Brianna
  10. Destiny

The African-American boys’ list more closely resembled the overall list, with Jayden remaining in number one place. The names that are different on the list for black boys: Elijah, Jeremiah, Christian, Josiah.

Other names in the top ten that broke rank by ethnicity include, for Hispanics, Melanie and Genesis for girls and Angel for boys; for Asian-Americans, Tiffany, Fiona, and Vivian for girls and Ryan, Eric, and Kevin for boys; and for whites, Rachel, Leah, Esther, and Chaya for girls, Benjamin and Samuel for boys.

Deanna Cullen is a recent graduate of Fairfield University with a degree in English/Creative Writing. She currently works as copy editor for The Hudson Reporter, and is a freelance contributing writer for The Hoboken Reporter, International Watch Magazine, and njnewsroom.com, along with interning for nameberry.

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