Soviet baby named after Patrice Lumumba

Congolese politician Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961)

January 17th of this year marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of 35-year-old Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba (in January of 1961).

Lumumba was the first democratically chosen leader of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But he was in power for fewer than three months before being arrested and, later, 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 (as 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. 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 babies in the U.S. named Patrice more than tripled from 1960 to 1961:

  • 1963: 20 baby boys named Patrice
  • 1962: 18 baby boys named Patrice
  • 1961: 38 baby boys named Patrice [peak male usage]
  • 1960: 11 baby boys named Patrice
  • 1959: unlisted

What are your thoughts on the baby name Patrice?

P.S. 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.

Image: Patrice Lumumba

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