African American Baby Names

Naming a baby can be a daunting task.  Some people think a baby’s name will point the way to success and prosperity – or the lack thereof – and place great significance on the name.  Others name babies according to family tradition, often giving a child the name of respected ancestors.  Other babies are named because one or both parents just like the sound of the name.

With almost seven billion people on the planet, there are probably about seven billion reasons for selecting the one name that will become the baby’s.  Often the story behind the name is very interesting.

The history of African American baby names, in general, is very interesting.

Babies weren’t the first African Americans given names in the United States.  Babies weren’t even brought here deliberately.  Instead, the older African captives who were brought here to become slaves were given names of European origin, partly because it was easier for their white handlers to remember and pronounce and partly to psychologically distance the slaves from their African homeland.

Once emancipation came for the slaves, they, themselves, chose to keep African American baby names that sounded European so as to conform better to white society and because, by then, there were many generations between freed slaves and their African ancestors.

African American baby names started changing around the time of the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  In an effort to embrace their suppressed African heritage, parents gave their babies names that proudly reflected African lineage and differed quite markedly from the traditional names of white people of European lineage.

With today’s advanced technologies, global travel, and widespread education opportunities, parents of all races are borrowing names from other cultures for any number of reasons.  One current trend in African American baby names of the last generation or so is to take sounds from different words and names and combine them into one completely unique name for their one completely unique baby.

This trend is beginning to fall out of favor, though, as those babies with the completely unique names are growing up and claiming their places in the world of business, government, and commerce.  Some people see a stigma attached to names that are so unique they are difficult to pronounce and spell.

Naming an African American baby today is still a very important endeavor, as it is with all babies, but some parents are striving to find a happy medium between the baby’s African heritage and it’s optimized chances for acceptance and success when the child reaches adulthood.

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