A few months back, commenter Becca mentioned the book Names From Africa (1972), which I believe was the first baby name book in the U.S. to focus on African names exclusively.
I have yet to see Ogonna Chuks-orji’s book in full, but Ebony ran an article in 1977 about African-American naming traditions (a few months after Roots first aired) and included a selection of names from the book.
I’ve included the names below, but first here’s a snippet of the article:
Then came the ’60s and ’70s and the rejection of assimilation efforts. Cultural nationalism and separatism replaced integration and Afro-Americans changed their names to reflect their new consciousness. The name of people of African descent as a whole was changed from Negro or colored to Black or Afro-American to reflect an aggressive pride in the African heritage, and an affirmation of the validity of self-defined identity. Africa became a source of names. Very Anglo-Saxon or exotic European names were changed to African names–usually Swahili names with meanings pertinent to the struggle. African leaders, past and present, like Shaka, Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Toure, began to provide the heroic, strong, inspirational names. The eclectic choice of African names reflects the Pan-Africanist orientation of the Afro-American identity.
Here are all the girl names:
Some of the these girl names have appeared on the SSA’s baby name list:
- Aba debuted in 1978.
- Abayomi debuted as a male name in 1972 and peaked in 1977.
- Abimbola debuted in 1973.
- Akwete debuted in 1977. One-hit wonder.
- Chinue debuted in 1977.
- Efia debuted in 1975.
- Habibah debuted in 1974.
- Ifetayo debuted in 1969.
- Jamila debuted in 1962 and peaked in 1977.
- Kamilah debuted in 1970 and first peaked in 1977.
- Layla debuted in 1950 and first peaked in 1977.
- Masani debuted in 1999.
- Naila debuted in 1953 and first peaked in 1977.
- Ramla debuted in 1998.
- Rashida debuted in 1964 and peaked in 1977.
- Safiya debuted in 1973.
- Sauda debuted in 1976.
And here are all the boy names:
Some of the these boy names have appeared on the SSA’s list as well:
- Abdalla debuted in 1973.
- Abubakar debuted in 1977.
- Ade debuted in 1919.
- Ahmed debuted in 1929.
- Azikiwe debuted in 1971.
- Bobo debuted in 1935. One-hit wonder.
- Habib debuted in 1972.
- Hasani debuted in 1973 and peaked in 1977.
- Hashim debuted in 1971 and peaked in 1977.
- Idi debuted in 1977. One-hit wonder. (The name of infamous Ugandan president Idi Amin.)
- Jabulani debuted in 1975.
- Kamau debuted in 1971.
- Kefentse debuted in 1977. One-hit wonder.
- Khalfani debuted in 1975.
- Kontar debuted in 1977. One-hit wonder.
- Kwasi debuted in 1970 and peaked in 1977.
- Lateef debuted in 1967 and peaked in 1977.
- Lukman debuted in 2002.
- Makalani debuted in 1977. One-hit wonder. (Makalani also happens to mean “heavenly eyes” or “eyes of heaven” in Hawaiian.)
- Mensah debuted in 1977.
- Nizam debuted in 1974. One-hit wonder.
- N’Namdi debuted in 1976.
- N’Nanna debuted in 1997.
- Nuru debuted in 1977.
- Oba debuted in 1915.
I was very curious about the definition of Machupa, “likes to drink.” Turns out it’s not alcohol-related; another book on African names specifies that the root of Machupa is probably chupa, a Kiswahili word meaning “bottle.”
- Stewart, Julia. African Names: Names from the African Continent for Children and Adults. New York: Citadel Press, 1993.
- Walker, Sheila S. “What’s in a Name?” Ebony Jun. 1977: 74+.