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Category: African-American history

Martin Luther King Day Names

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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.

AMELIA Boynton Robinson – brought Dr. King to Selma in 1953

ANGELA Davis  –radical Black activist, advocate of racial justice

CARLOTTA Walls – youngest member of the Little Rock Nine students who desegregated Central High School in 1957

CHARLAYNE Hunter-Gault –one of the first two African-American students to enter the University of Georgia in 1961

CLARA Luper – activist known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’

CLAUDETTE Colvin – refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus nine months before Rosa Parks did

CORETTA Scott King – Dr. King’s full partner in the civil rights movement

DAISY Bates –  a key figure in the integration of Central High School in Little Rock

DOROTHY Cotton – the highest ranking female in Dr King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT –   a civil rights activist during her husband’s tenure as President.

ELLA  Baker – influential activist, key figure in the NAACP, SCLC and in the creation of the Student Noviolent Coordinating Committee

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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)
MONDAYJUBA; CUDJOE
TUESDAY –BENEBA; CUBBENAH
WEDNESDAYCUBA; QUACO
THURSDAY – ABBA; QUAO
FRIDAY — PHEBE/PHIBBI; CUFF/CUFFEE
SATURDAY — MIMBA; QUAME/KWAME

Names were also chosen that signified months of the year, seasons and holidays. Some of these that have survived on the roles include: MONDAY, FRIDAY, CHRISTMAS, EASTER, MARCH and JULY.

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African-American Heroine Names

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As Black History Month segues into  Women’s History Month this weekend, we thought we’d take a look at the names of some African-American heroines.

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:

ALICE Dunbar-Nelson — Journalist, poet, author.

BARBARA Jordan — Texas Congresswoman who won fame during Nixon impeachment hearings.

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.

CLARA Stanton Jones — The American Library Association’s first African-American president.

CLEMENTINE Hunter — African-American painter, born in 1887.

CONSTANCE Baker Motley — First black female federal judge.

CORETTA Scott King — Widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

DOROTHY West — Harlem Renaissance author.

ELLA Fitzgerald — Jazz singer.

FAYE Wattleton — Women’s rights activist.

GWENDOLYN Brooks — Poet and first African-American to win the Pulitzer.

HALLIE Quinn Brown — 19th century women’s rights activist.

HARRIET Tubman (born ARAMINTA Ross) — Escaped slave who became an abolitionist and Union spy; most famous for her work with the Underground Railroad.

IDA B. Wells-Barnett — Journalist and founding member of the NAACP.

JANE Bolin — Judge and community activist; first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School.

JOSEPHINE Baker — Politically-minded entertainer who was the Angelina Jolie of her day.

JUANITA Hall — First black actress to win a Tony Award.

KARA Walker — Artist best known for her silhouettes.

LENA Horne — Actress, singer, and civil rights activist.

LORRAINE Hansberry — Author of play “A Raisin in the Sun

MABEL Mercer — English singer.

MAHALIA Jackson — Gospel singer.

MARIAN Anderson — First black singer to perform with the Metropolitan Opera.

MARIAN Wright Edelman — Children’s Defense Fund founder.

NATALIE Hinderas — Composer and classical musician.

OCTAVIA Victoria Rogers Albert — Author and teacher.

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.

ROSETTA Tharpe — Jazz and blues singer and songwriter.

RUBY Dee — Actress.

SADIE Tanner Mossell Alexander — The first African-American Ph.D. in economics.

SARAH Vaughan — Jazz musician.

SHIRLEY Chisholm — First black woman elected to Congress.

SOJOURNER Truth — Abolitionist and women’s rights activist.

SUSIE King Taylor — Ex-slave who became Civil War nurse.

TONI Morrison — Novelist who won the Nobel Prize in literature.

VIOLETTE Neatley Anderson — In the 1920s, became the first black female attorney to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

WILMA Rudolph — Olympic runner.

ZENSI MIRIAM Makeba — African singer.

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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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