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African-American Hero Names

January 19, 2009 Pamela Redmond

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

About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles

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