Early African American Names

Until recently, scholarly consensus was that early African American names did not differ significantly from those of white Americans. Distinctively Black names were thought to have risen from the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, which promoted the use of names with connections to Africa.

However, research by Lisa D. Cook and colleagues has revealed evidence of racialized names from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They identified 21 distinctly Black male names, among them biblical classics such as Abraham and Moses, and word names including Freeman and Prince.

Along with Abraham and Prince, other early African American names currently in the US Top 1000 include Alonzo, Athena, Daphne, Elijah, Isaiah, Israel, King, Phoebe, and Titus. Place names that were disproportionately popular among Black Americans in history include Boston, Jamaica, York, and Africa.

Also included here are common names among slaves, many of which were classical and had ties to the Bible or mythology, such as Keziah and Venus. Here, our list of notable early African American names.
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