African-American Hero Names

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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8 Responses to “African-American Hero Names”

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Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

January 19th, 2009 at 10:21 am

Kimora Lee Simmons on the same list with Rosa Parks, Zora Neale Hurston, and Nelson Mandela? *Shudder* Really, we need a separate pop star list!

Interesting bit of name nerd trivia: Harriet Tubman’s given name was Araminta Ross.

More:

Frederick Douglass
George Washington Carver
W.E.B. Dubois
Toni Morrison
Ella Fitzgerald
Marcus Garvey
Tiger Woods
Barack Obama

pam Says:

January 19th, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Kimora made this list because she’s the one who’s actually inspiring a lot of little namesakes! Love Araminta….

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

January 19th, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Gotcha. It is a pretty name.

Jenmb Says:

January 19th, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Linda, I just discovered your blog and love reading it. I would be really interested in an entry with your opinion as to “who” decides when a name should be revived? Is it a celebrity? Wealthy parents in NYC? There are a few names I’ve found (mostly boys) that I personally think are ready to be rediscovered and could catch on that you list as officially retired. Who are the pre-determined trend setters?

Cait Says:

January 23rd, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Love Araminta, Rosa and Harriet!

Cait Says:

January 23rd, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Also, I think Sasha and Malia Obama may end up inspiring many namesakes. Beautiful names and girls!

Loren Says:

January 25th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

I see the term “hero” is being used loosely here. Celebrity pop stars and athletes don’t deserve to share a list with true heroes such as those of the Civil Rights era. Maybe you should just say “Famous African-Americans.”

Ami Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Love the names Zora and Zadie. Any thoughts?

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