Ebony Magazine’s Influence on Baby Names

cushena
10-month-old Cushena in 1985
© Ebony
So far, I’ve found only one baby name (Theonita) that saw increased usage thanks to African-American news magazine Jet.

But I know of five (!) that saw increased usage after being mentioned in various issues of African-American lifestyle magazine Ebony, which is owned by the same company.

Here are all five:

Loukisha

Loukisha has appeared on the SSA’s baby name list three times:

  • 1976: unlisted
  • 1975: 7 baby girls named Loukisha
  • 1974: 14 baby girls named Loukisha
  • 1973: 48 baby girls named Loukisha [debut]
  • 1972: unlisted

The name had been mentioned in the July 1973 issue of Ebony, in an article about SIDS. “Loukisha Gray, four-month-old victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, was laid to rest May 11, 1973 in Harlem.”

Kimario and Nykeba

Kimario has appeared on the list once:

  • 1981: unlisted
  • 1980: 13 baby boys named Kimario [debut]
  • 1979: unlisted

And Nykeba was a one-hit wonder the same year:

  • 1981: unlisted
  • 1980: 26 baby girls named Nykeba [debut]
  • 1979: unlisted

Both names had been mentioned in the April 1980 issue of Ebony in an article called “Sex and the Single Parent.” Kimario was the 4-year-old son of Aisha Nanji of Atlanta, and Nykeba was the 3-year-old daughter of Vicki Newsum of Memphis.

Cushena

Cushena has appeared on the list twice:

  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: 9 baby girls named Cushena
  • 1985: 11 baby girls named Cushena [debut]
  • 1984: unlisted

The name had been mentioned in two issues of Ebony — the March 1985 issue and the August 1986 issue. The first time, it was in an article about teenage parenthood. “Fifteen-year-old Lisa Robinson of Chicago cuddles her 10-month-old daughter, Cushena, while trying to concentrate on her homework.” (This quote goes with the image above.) The second time, it was in an article about black children.

Ziyadah

Ziyadah has appeared on the list once:

  • 1995: unlisted
  • 1994: 5 baby girls named Ziyadah [debut]
  • 1993: unlisted

The name had been mentioned in the January 1994 issue of Ebony, in an article about first-time mothers. “Joy of motherhood radiates from first-time mom DiAnna Toliver Muhammad of San Diego as she cuddles her 10-month-old daughter Ziyadah Iman.”

*

I’m sure there are more Ebony– and Jet-inspired baby names out there. If you own any old issues of either magazine, and one of your issues contains an uncommon name, please leave a comment with the name (and the month/year) so I can check it out!

Sources:

  • Edelman, Marian Wright. “Save the Children.” Ebony Aug. 1986.
  • “First-Time Moms.” Ebony Jan. 1994.
  • Harris, Ron. “Sex and the Single Parent.” Ebony Apr. 1980.
  • Height, Dorothy I. “What Must Be Done About Children Having Children.” Ebony Mar. 1985.
  • Horton, Luci. “The Mystery of Crib Death.” Ebony July 1973.

6 thoughts on “Ebony Magazine’s Influence on Baby Names

  1. … but that peak is probably due to the song “Ebony and Ivory”, not to the magazine.

  2. The song helped Ebony reach that high point in 1982, though the name was on the rise anyway from the late ’60s to the early ’80s. This probably had less to do with the magazine and more to do with the growing African-American racial/political consciousness of the era. (Though I wouldn’t be surprised if the magazine is what inspired people to start using Ebony as a baby name in the first place, as Maartin suggested.)

  3. Living far away from the USA, I cannot say whether there is a real connection between the peak of the name “Hans” in the 1960’s and the rôle of Liberian-German Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi as journalist and later editor-in-chief of the magazine Ebony.

    P.S. Massaquoi’s two autobiographical books are worth reading.

  4. That’s an interesting theory. I’m not sure if he was high-profile enough to have had an impact on the baby name Hans, but who knows, maybe so.

    (I just read his Wikipedia page — wow, sounds like he had a very unique childhood. Thanks for the book recommendations!)

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