Category: African-American history
To commemorate Martin Luther King Day, we honor some of his fellow heroes and heroines of the civil rights movement. It would be impossible to list all of them, so here are some of the most worthy namesakes.
CLARA Luper – activist known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’
Here is another excerpt from our latest book, Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby
In Colonial times, as many as twenty percent of the slaves in the Carolinas bore African names, most notably day names, which relate to the day of the week on which the person was born. The West African day names, often translated to English cognates such as Judy for Juba or Joe for Cudjoe, are:
SUNDAY – QUASHEBA (female); QUASHEE (male)
MONDAY — JUBA; CUDJOE
TUESDAY –BENEBA; CUBBENAH
WEDNESDAY — CUBA; QUACO
THURSDAY – ABBA; QUAO
FRIDAY — PHEBE/PHIBBI; CUFF/CUFFEE
SATURDAY — MIMBA; QUAME/KWAME
Actually, compiling this list was not as easy as you might think (or as it should be). Google and book searches tended to turn up only the usual suspects. And then, late as usual, I bought my 2009 calendar from the bargain bin: A Journey Into 365 Days of Black History — Notable Women.
An array of admirable women are listed there, all of whom would provide wonderful role models (and lovely names) for any child. The best:
BESSIE Coleman — In 1922, became the world’s only licensed black pilot. She staged flying exhibitions to fund a school to train black aviationists.
CHARLOTTE Ray — In 1872, became the first black female lawyer.
CONSTANCE Baker Motley — First black female federal judge.
FAYE Wattleton — Women’s rights activist.
JOSEPHINE Baker — Politically-minded entertainer who was the Angelina Jolie of her day.
KARA Walker — Artist best known for her silhouettes.
LENA Horne — Actress, singer, and civil rights activist.
MABEL Mercer — English singer.
MAHALIA Jackson — Gospel singer.
MARIAN Wright Edelman — Children’s Defense Fund founder.
NATALIE Hinderas — Composer and classical musician.
PEARL Bailey — Actress and singer.
PHILLIS Wheatley — First published African-American female poet. The name Phillis or Phyllis, the Roman goddess of spring, was typical of the classical names given to early African-Americans.
PRUDENCE Crandall — White woman arrested for teaching black girls at her school in 1833.
ROSA Parks — Heroine of the famous bus boycott that launched the civil rights movement.
RUBY Dee — Actress.
SHIRLEY Chisholm — First black woman elected to Congress.
SOJOURNER Truth — Abolitionist and women’s rights activist.
TONI Morrison — Novelist who won the Nobel Prize in literature.
WILMA Rudolph — Olympic runner.
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:
BOOKER T. Washington
HENRY (HANK) Aaron
JADA Pinkett Smith
KIMORA Lee Simmons
Dr. MAE Jemison (astronaut)
PHILLIS Wheatley (early writer)
George WASHINGTON Carver
ZORA Neale Hurston