Where did the baby names Juandalynn and Donzaleigh come from in 1970?

Donzaleigh and Juandalynn Abernathy with parents (Ralph and Juanita) and brother (Ralph), circa 1969
Donzaleigh and Juandalynn Abernathy with family

The names Donzaleigh and Juandalynn were both one-hit wonders in the U.S. baby name data in 1970:

Girls named JuandalynnGirls named Donzaleigh

Where did they come from?

Juandalynn and Donzaleigh Abernathy — the daughters of civil rights activist and Baptist minister Ralph Abernathy (1926-1990).

Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr., co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the late 1950s, following the Montgomery bus boycott (which they helped organize). King was the first president of the SCLC, but Abernathy assumed the role after King was assassinated in April of 1968.

In 1969 and 1970 — when Abernathy was in the spotlight as the new SCLC president — African American magazines like Jet and Ebony ran photos of the Abernathy family, which included Ralph, his wife Juanita, and their middle three children:

  • Juandalynn Ralpheda (b. 1954)
  • Donzaleigh Avis (b. 1957)
  • Ralph David III (b. 1959)

(Their oldest, Ralph David Jr., had died two days after birth in 1953. Their youngest, Kwame Luthuli, wasn’t born until the early 1970s.)

Juandalynn’s first and middle names were clearly inspired by her parents’ names, but I don’t know how Donzaleigh’s name was coined.

What are your thoughts on the names Juandalynn and Donzaleigh? Which one do you like more?


Image: © 1970 Ebony

2 thoughts on “Where did the baby names Juandalynn and Donzaleigh come from in 1970?

  1. Given that the sources for the other children’s names are obvious there must be a story behind Donzaleigh Avis beyond just liking the name.

    Between Juandalynn and Donzaleigh, I’d pick Donzaleigh. Mostly because “Jaunda-” sounds like “Wanda” which has never been a favorite. I’m sure both are misspelled and mispronounced quite often, so that’s not a factor in choosing between them. As for the middle names, Avis wins hands down over Ralpheda.

  2. I agree, there must be a story there.

    I did try checking the names of Donzaleigh’s grandparents, but that doesn’t appear to be the answer. (Her maternal grandparents were Alex and Ella; her paternal grandparents were Will and Louivery.)

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