Babies Named After Oscar DePriest

the baby name depriest
Oscar DePriest

The name DePriest debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1929, and usage peaked in 1930:

  • 1931: unlisted
  • 1930: 10 baby boys named DePriest
  • 1929: 5 baby boys named DePriest [debut]
  • 1928: unlisted

Where did the name come from?

Chicago politician Oscar DePriest, the first African-American from outside the southern states to be elected to Congress.

Oscar DePriest was born in Alabama in 1871. His parents, former slaves, moved the family northward to Salina, Kansas, after 7-year-old Oscar discovered a neighbor “who had been lynched and riddled with bullets.”

As a young adult, Oscar continued to move northward — first to Dayton, and finally to Chicago.

Chicago is where he met and married his wife Jessie in 1898, where he become wealthy thanks to his real estate business and investments in the stock market, and where he first got involved in politics.

Decades later, in November of 1928, Oscar DePriest was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. This made him not only the first African-American elected to Congress in the North, but also the first African-American elected to Congress during the 20th century.

(In fact, Oscar DePriest was re-elected twice, and during all three consecutive terms he was the only African-American in Congress, becoming by default “the only voice in Congress for twelve million black Americans.”)

Needless to say, many people in the South were not big fans of Oscar DePriest.

In April of 1929, the members of the 71st Congress were sworn in all at once — as opposed to state by state, which had been the tradition up to that point — “in large part to prevent any challenges to the legality of DePriest’s seating.”

In June of 1929, DePriest’s wife Jessie made national headlines when she visited the White House to have tea with First Lady Lou Hoover. Southern journalists and politicians (including Coleman Blease) criticized the DePriests and accused the Hoovers of “defiling” the White House. The Georgia legislature, the Texas legislature, the Florida legislature, and the Mississippi legislature all passed resolutions condemning the event and the Hoovers themselves.

Here is part of Oscar’s reaction to the criticism:

“I want to thank the Democrats of the south for one thing. They were so barbaric they drove my parents to the north. If it had not been for that I wouldn’t be in Congress today. I’ve been Jim Crowed, segregated, persecuted, and I think I know how best the Negro can put a stop to being imposed upon. It is through the ballot, through organization, through eternally fighting for his rights.”

Thankfully, the DePriests also had plenty of supporters. And some of that support was expressed in the form of baby names.

More than a dozen babies were named DePriest in 1929 and 1930 (as we saw above) and more than two dozen other babies born in 1929 or the 1930s got the first-middle combination “Oscar DePriest.” Here are some examples:

And baby girls weren’t left out entirely. I found one born in Texas in 1929 with the first-middle combo “Jessie DePriest.”


Image: Oscar DePriest, 5/8/29, Library of Congress

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