The Antebellum Roots of Distinctively Black Names
This paper explores the existence of distinctively Black names in the antebellum era. Building on recent research that documents the existence of a national naming pattern for African American males in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Cook, Logan and Parman 2014), we analyze three distinct and novel antebellum data sources and uncover three stylized facts. First, the Black names identified by Cook, Logan and Parman using post-Civil War data are common names among Blacks before Emancipation. Second, these same Black names are racially distinctive in the antebellum period. Third, the racial distinctiveness of the names increases from the early 1800s to the time of the Civil War. Taken together, these facts provide support for the claim that Black naming patterns existed in the antebellum era and that racial distinctiveness in naming patterns was an established practice well before Emancipation. These findings further challenge the view that Black names are a product of twentieth century phenomena such as the Civil Rights Movement.
We thank Jonathan Pritchett for providing and alerting us to data sources. We thank Stanley Engerman, Peter Temin, Jhacova Williams, Richard Steckel, William Darity, and Rodney Andrews for comments and suggestions. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.