January 17, 2011, marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of 35-year-old Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.
Lumumba was the first democratically chosen leader of what is now the DRC, but he was premier for less than three months in mid-1960 before being arrested and executed by firing squad.
The U.S. likely played a part in his assassination. The White House saw Lumumba as a threat to U.S. economic interests (the Congo is rich in natural resources) and also believed he was a communist (even though it seems he was not).
The perceived communist connection makes this particular baby name all the more intriguing.
Right around the time Lumumba was assassinated, at least one American newspaper reported that Mr. and Mrs. Vikloj Kim of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic had named their firstborn son Patrice in honor of Patrice Lumumba.
Of course, the paper didn’t attempt to track down any American babies named for Lumumba, though I’m sure they could have found one. The number of male Patrices born in the U.S. more than tripled from 1960 (11) to 1961 (37).
[Interesting contrast: the Soviet baby named Samantha Smith, two decades later.]
- Hochschild, Adam. “An Assassination’s Long Shadow.” New York Times 16 Jan. 2011.
- “Soviet Union Baby Named for Lumumba” Hartford Courant 16 Feb. 1961: 1.