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Black History Names

Black History Names

Black history names include the names of African-Americans throughout US history who've achieved extraordinary things.

Among the Black history names here are the names of politicians, activists, writers, artists, businesspeople and others who might make worthy namesakes for contemporary babies. Black history names come from centuries of history, from the Renaissance to the late twentieth century. Note: While there are many notable figures from Black and African-American history with ordinary names, we've focused on the names that are more clearly associated with historic heroes and heroines. Also here are many last names that can be used as firsts.

  1. HazelHeart
    • Origin:

      English
    • Meaning:

      "the hazelnut tree"
    • Description:

      Hazel is a name applied from the English word hazel, referring to the hazelnut tree. The word was derived from the Old English hæsel of the same meaning. Historically, a wand of hazel symbolized protection and authority.
  2. AugustHeart
    • Origin:

      German form of Latin Augustus
    • Meaning:

      "great, magnificent"
    • Description:

      August is THE celebrity baby name of the moment, chosen by both Princess Eugenie and Mandy Moore for their baby boys in early 2021. Before that, August had been heating up in Hollywood – used by Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann, Lena Olin, Dave Matthews and Jeanne Tripplehorn for their sons, and is rapidly becoming the preferred month of the year for boys' names. The month of August was named after the Emperor Augustus.
  3. JosephineHeart
    • Origin:

      French feminine variation of Joseph
    • Meaning:

      "Jehovah increases"
    • Description:

      Josephine is the feminine form of Joseph, a name ultimately derived from the Hebrew Yosef, meaning "Jehovah increases." In French it has an accent over the first E, which was omitted in the English, German, and Dutch translations of the name. Empress Joséphine du Beauharnais was born Marie-Josephe-Rose, but called Josephine by her husband, Napolean Bonaparte.
  4. MilesHeart
    • Origin:

      English form of Milo
    • Meaning:

      "soldier or merciful"
    • Description:

      Miles, which took on a permanent veneer of cool thanks to jazz great Miles Davis, is a confident and polished boy name starting with M that has been appreciated in particular by celebrity baby namers, including Elisabeth Shue, Mayim Bialik, Larenz Tate, Joan Cusack and Lionel Ritchie.
  5. CoraHeart
    • Origin:

      Greek
    • Meaning:

      "maiden"
    • Description:

      In classical mythology, Cora—or Kore—was a euphemistic name of Persephone, goddess of fertility and the underworld. Kore was the name used when referencing her identity as the goddess of Spring, while Persephone referred to her role as queen of the Underworld. Cora gained popularity as a given name after James Fenimore Cooper used it as the name of his heroine, Cora Munro, in his 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans.
  6. ClementineHeart
    • Origin:

      French feminine version of Clement, Latin
    • Meaning:

      "mild, merciful"
    • Description:

      Clementine is a Nameberry favorite that has finally broken back into the US Top 1000 after more than half a century off the list. Still, its style value may mean there are more Clementines than you might guess in your neighborhood—it may be a name that raises Mom's eyebrows, but it won't surprise your friends.
  7. LeviHeart
    • Origin:

      Hebrew
    • Meaning:

      "joined, attached"
    • Description:

      In the Old Testament, Levi was the third son of Leah and Jacob, from whom the priestly tribe of Levites descended; in the New Testament, Levi was Matthew's given name before he became an apostle. It is suspected that Levi derives from the Hebrew word yillaweh, meaning “he will join.”
  8. EllaHeart
    • Origin:

      German; English
    • Meaning:

      "all, completely; fairy maiden"
    • Description:

      Ella has parallel derivations, first as the Norman variation of the Germanic Alia—itself a nickname for names containing the element ali. It’s also a Hebrew name, referring to a tree in the pistachio family or in modern Hebrew, "goddess." In English speaking countries and Scandinavia, Ella developed as a diminutive for names beginning with El-, such as Eleanor and Elizabeth.
  9. JacobHeart
    • Origin:

      Hebrew
    • Meaning:

      "supplanter"
    • Description:

      Jacob comes from the Latin name Iacobus, which was ultimately derived from the Hebrew name Ya’aqov. In the Old Testament, Jacob was one of the most important patriarchs of the tribes of Israel. He was the youngest son of Isaac and Rebecca and the twin brother of Esau, as well as the husband of both Leah and Rachel. The 12 tribes of Israel evolved from his 12 sons.
  10. MayaHeart
    • Origin:

      Greek mythology name; Central American Indian empire name; Latinate variation of May; Spanish, diminutive of Amalia; variation of Maia; Hebrew
    • Meaning:

      "water"
    • Description:

      In addition to being the name of a Central American culture, Maya was the legendary Greek mother of Hermes by Zeus, and means "illusion" in Sanskrit and Eastern Pantheism. It can also be spelled Maia, though both names have so many possible origins and meanings that not all of them are related. To the Romans, Maia/Maya was the incarnation of the earth mother and goddess of spring, after whom they named the month of May.
  11. AltheaHeart
    • Origin:

      Greek
    • Meaning:

      "with healing power"
    • Description:

      Althea is a poetic, almost ethereal name found in Greek myth and pastoral poetry, associated in modern times with the great tennis player Althea Gibson, the first African-American to win at Wimbleton.
  12. IdaHeart
    • Origin:

      German
    • Meaning:

      "industrious one"
    • Description:

      Many vowel names stylish a century ago are coming back, and Ida seems like a possible, logical successor to Ada and Ava.
  13. WellsHeart
    • Origin:

      Surname from place name
    • Meaning:

      "spring"
    • Description:

      Wells is a newly-famous baby name thanks to pregnancy guru Rosie Pope, who uses it as the short form of the buttoned-up Wellington, name of her youngest child.
  14. LincolnHeart
    • Origin:

      English
    • Meaning:

      "town by the pool"
    • Description:

      Lincoln cracked the Top 50 for boys' names for the first time in 2016, more than 150 years after the death of its most famous bearer. This is especially remarkable because, as crazy as it seems now, Lincoln was deeply out of fashion as recently as the late 90s, consistently hovering near the bottom of the Top 1000. This admirable presidential choice with a stylish two-syllable sound projects the tall, rangy, upright, image of Honest Abe. Bill Murray is father to a son named Lincoln, and Kathryn Erbe's boy Carson has Lincoln for his middle name. Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard gender-bent it for their daughter.
  15. AsaHeart
    • Origin:

      Hebrew; Japanese
    • Meaning:

      "healer; born in the morning"
    • Description:

      A short but strong biblical name with multicultural appeal, Asa is enjoying new visibility thanks to hot young actor Asa Butterfield of Hugo fame.
  16. SonnyHeart
    • Origin:

      English
    • Meaning:

      "son"
    • Description:

      Sonny is one of the generic boy nickname names making a surprise reappearance, and it was recently used by actor Jason Lee. Another surprise: It's been on the US Top 1000 list every year since 1927, reaching a peak in 1975, when it hit Number 428.
  17. HarrietHeart
    • Origin:

      English variation of French Henriette
    • Meaning:

      "estate ruler"
    • Description:

      Harriet has long been considered a stylish, upscale name in England, but it's still waiting to be revived in the US—though some parents seeking a solid, serious semi-classic are beginning to consider it.
  18. MalcolmHeart
    • Origin:

      Scottish
    • Meaning:

      "devotee of St. Colomba"
    • Description:

      Malcolm is a warm and welcoming Scottish appellation (originally Mael-Colium) that fits into that golden circle of names that are distinctive but not at all odd. A royal name in Scotland, Malcolm is also a hero name for many via radical civil rights activist Malcolm X.
  19. LenaHeart
    • Origin:

      English, Scottish, Dutch, German, and Scandinavian, diminutive of various names ending in lena
    • Description:

      This pet form of Helena and other ena-ending names, long used as an independent name, is attracting notice again as an option both multicultural and simple. Lena was a Top 100 name from 1880 to 1920.
  20. RhodesHeart
    • Origin:

      Greek
    • Meaning:

      "where roses grow"
    • Description:

      A Greek island and a prestigious scholarship make an upper-crusty first name with the uber-stylish S ending. Rhodes was recently chosen by actress Emma Roberts for her son, born in 2020.