Category: African-American baby names

By Linda Rosenkrantz

In our previous salutes to Black History Month, we’ve looked back to Civil Rights and cultural heroes and other barrier breakers of the past. Today, instead, we’re focusing on the present– the history that’s being made right now with the breakthrough on diversity via the increased numbers of this year’s nominees and winners of various screen awards, with many more people of color making the lists than ever before. These include not just actors but directors, producers, writers and musicians.

Here are some of the more outstanding names.

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posted by: ClareB View all posts by this author

By Clare Bristow

If you’ve read a book by the great Toni Morrison, chances are you’ll remember some of her characters’ names. From vivid nicknames to evocative biblical names, it’s easy to believe there’s a story behind each one.

Morrison’s novels tell of African-American communities, from the time of slavery to the present. One of the issues she explores is the loss of African Americans’ identities and heritage, and how to reclaim them. Names play a huge part in this, as you might expect.

Change a person’s name, as slave owners did, and you take away their identity and cut them off from their ancestors. Once that connection is lost, how do free African Americans get it back? Should they accept the names they have been given, or choose their own names and forge a new heritage?

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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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