Baby born to American activists, named “america”

Abbie Hoffman, Anita Kushner, and baby america Hoffman (early 1970s)
The Hoffman family

Media-savvy political activist Abbott “Abbie” Hoffman (1936-1989) and his second wife, Anita Kushner, welcomed a baby boy in mid-1971.

Abbie’s first two children (Andrew and Amy) didn’t have politicized names, but his third got the name america — deliberately spelled with a small a in order “to distinguish the child’s name from a jingoistic sentiment.”

[T]he birth of his and Anita’s son, “america,” was treated as a political statement, as an affirmation of their optimism about the future and their roots in American culture.

Anita added (years later) that they’d gone with a lower-case a “because [they] didn’t want to be pretentious.”

Another name they’d considered for their son? Tupac.

In the Hoffmans’ book To America with Love, one of the letters Anita wrote (in July of 1974) began:

I met Affeni [sic] Shakur today. What an up. She is vibrant, beautiful, wise with experience. We talked about our children a lot and the heavy history behind each. Did you know she named her son Tupac Amaru, after the last Inca prince who rebelled against the Spaniards? We had considered naming america that. Tupac’s the same age.

(Tupac’s mother’s name was actually spelled Afeni.)

Abbie Hoffman went underground in 1974 (in order to evade arrest). He remained in hiding, using the alias “Barry Freed,” for six years. During that period, Anita and america were under constant FBI surveillance. So Anita and Abbie began to call their son “Alan” as an added layer of protection.

Alan reverted back to his real name at the start of high school (in the mid-1980s), hoping that “america” would impress a “cute punk rock girl” in his class.

Sources:

Image: Adapted from Anita Hoffman with son by Leah Kushner under CC-BY-SA-4.0.

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