Slave name

Last updated

A slave name is the personal name given by others to an enslaved person, or a name inherited from enslaved ancestors. The modern use of the term applies mostly to African Americans and West Indians who are descended from enslaved Africans who retain their name given to their ancestors by the enslavers.


Ancient Rome

In Rome slaves were given a single name by their owner. A slave who was freed might keep his or her slave name and adopt the former owner's name as a praenomen and nomen. As an example, one historian says that "a man named Publius Larcius freed a male slave named Nicia, who was then called Publius Larcius Nicia." [1]

Historian Harold Whetstone Johnston writes of instances in which a slave's former owner chose to ignore custom and simply chose a name for the freedman. [2]

African Americans

A number of African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans have changed their names out of the belief that the names they were given at birth were slave names. An individual's name change often coincides with a religious conversion (Muhammad Ali changed his name from Cassius Clay, Malcolm X from Malcolm Little, and Louis Farrakhan changed his from Louis Eugene Walcott, for example) [3] [4] or involvement with the black nationalist movement, in this later case usually adopting names of African origin (e.g., Amiri Baraka and Assata Shakur). [5]

Some organizations encourage African-Americans to abandon their slave names. The Nation of Islam is perhaps the best-known of them. In his 1965 book, Message to the Blackman in America , Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad writes often of slave names. Some of his comments include:

The black nationalist US Organization also advocates for African-Americans to change their slave names and adopt African names. [8]

Other references

Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor stated in 2017 that she had changed her legal name to Magda Davitt, saying in an interview that she wished to be "free of the patriarchal slave names.” [9] On her conversion to Islam in 2018, she adopted the Muslim name Shuhada' Sadaqat. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Nation of Islam African American political and religious movement

The Nation of Islam (NOI) is an African-American political and new religious movement, founded in Detroit, Michigan, United States, by Wallace Fard Muhammad on July 4, 1930. Its stated goals are to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African Americans. Its official newspaper is The Final Call. In 2007, the core membership was estimated to be between 20,000 and 50,000.

Sinéad OConnor Irish singer

Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor is an Irish singer-songwriter who rose to fame in the late 1980s with her debut album The Lion and the Cobra. O'Connor achieved worldwide success in 1990 with a new arrangement of Prince's song "Nothing Compares 2 U."

Louis Farrakhan Leader of the religious group Nation of Islam

Louis Farrakhan Sr., formerly known as Louis X, is an American religious leader and political activist who heads the Nation of Islam (NOI). Earlier in his career, he served as the minister of mosques in Boston and Harlem and was appointed National Representative of the Nation of Islam by former NOI leader Elijah Muhammad.

Nation of Islam and antisemitism Antisemitism in the Nation of Islam

A number of organizations and academics consider the Nation of Islam to be antisemitic, stating that it has engaged in Holocaust denial and antisemitic interpretations of the Holocaust, and exaggerates the role of Jews in the African slave trade, whereas mainstream historians, such as Saul S. Friedman, have said Jews had a negligible role. The Nation of Islam has repeatedly rejected charges made against it as false and politically motivated.

Elijah Muhammad American religious leader

Elijah Muhammad was a religious leader and author who led the Nation of Islam (NOI) from 1934 until his death in 1975, and he claimed that he is Messenger of Allah (God), to the Nation of Islam believers. Muhammad was also the teacher and mentor of Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Muhammad Ali, and his own son, Warith Deen Mohammed.

Warith Deen Mohammed Leader of the Nation of Islam (American Society of Muslims)

Warith Deen Mohammed, also known as W. Deen Mohammed, Imam W. Deen Muhammad and Imam Warith Deen, was an African-American Muslim leader, theologian, philosopher, Muslim revivalist, and Islamic thinker (1975–2008) who disbanded the original Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1976 and transformed it into an ostensibly orthodox mainstream Islamic movement, the Bilalians (1975), World Community of Al-Islam in the West (1976-77), the American Muslim Mission (1978-85,) which later became the American Society of Muslims. He was a son of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam from 1933 to 1975.

Khalid Muhammad was a black nationalist leader in the United States who became a prominent figure in the Nation of Islam and later the New Black Panther Party. After a racially inflammatory 1993 speech at Kean College, Muhammad was condemned and removed from his position in the Nation of Islam by Louis Farrakhan. He was also censured by both Houses of the United States Congress.

Yakub (Nation of Islam)

In the beliefs of the Nation of Islam (NOI), Yakub was a black scientist who lived "6,600 years ago" and began the creation of the white race/white people. He is said to have done this through a form of selective breeding referred to as "grafting", while living on the island of Patmos. The Nation of Islam theology states that Yakub is the biblical Jacob. The story has caused disputes within the NOI during its history. Under its current leader Louis Farrakhan, the NOI continues to assert that the story of Yakub is true, claiming that modern science is consistent with it.

Fruit of Islam

The Fruit of Islam (FOI), or "Fruit" for short, is the security and disciplinary wing of the Nation of Islam (NOI). It has also been described as its paramilitary wing. The Fruit of Islam wear distinctive blue or white uniforms and caps and have units at all NOI temples. Louis Farrakhan, as head of the Nation of Islam, is commander-in-chief of the Fruit of Islam, and his son, Mustapha Farrakhan Sr, is second in command. The women's counterpart to the Fruit of Islam is Muslim Girls Training (MGT).

Saviours Day

Saviours' Day is a holiday of the Nation of Islam commemorating the birth of its founder, Master Wallace Fard Muhammad, officially stated to be February 26, 1877. It was established by Elijah Muhammad.

<i>Muhammad Speaks</i>

Muhammad Speaks was one of the most widely read newspapers ever produced by an African-American organization. It was the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam from 1960 to 1975, founded by a group of Elijah Muhammad's ministers, including Malcolm X. After Elijah Muhammad's death in 1975, it was renamed several times after Warith Deen Mohammed moved the Nation of Islam into mainstream Sunni Islam, culminating in The Muslim Journal. A number of rival journals were also published, including The Final Call under Louis Farrakhan, claiming to continue the message of the original.

<i>The Final Call</i>

The Final Call is a newspaper published in Chicago. It was founded in 1979 by Minister Louis Farrakhan and serves as the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam. The magazine acts as the group's tool to spread their agenda, goals and their view of world events and natural disasters.

Beliefs and theology of the Nation of Islam

This article is about the beliefs and theology of the Nation of Islam.

Shabazz is the name of a black architect whose tribe founded the populations of Africa according to the doctrine of the Nation of Islam (NOI),

Khadijah Farrakhan

Khadijah Farrakhan is the wife of Louis Farrakhan, the Supreme Leader of the Nation of Islam. She is known as the First Lady of the Nation of Islam.

American Society of Muslims Muslim organization in US

The American Society of Muslims was a predominantly African-American association of Muslims which was the direct descendant of the original Nation of Islam. It was created by Warith Deen Mohammed after he assumed leadership of the Nation of Islam upon the death of his father Elijah Muhammad. Imam W. Deen Mohammed changed the name of the Nation of Islam to the "World Community of Islam in the West" in 1976, then the "American Muslim Mission" in 1981, and finally the "American Society of Muslims".

Ishmael Muhammad

Ishmael Muhammad, is an American member of the Nation of Islam, and alleged son of Elijah Muhammad and Tynnetta Muhammad. He is the Nation of Islam national assistant minister to Louis Farrakhan. In 1995, Muhammad was a speaker at the Million Man March.

Black nationalism is a type of nationalism or pan-nationalism which espouses the belief that black people are a race and seeks to develop and maintain a black racial and national identity. Black nationalist activism revolves around social, political, and economic empowerment of black communities and people, especially to resist assimilation into white culture and maintain a distinct black identity.

African-American Muslims, also colloquially known as Black Muslims, are an African American religious minority. About 1% of African-Americans are Muslims. They represent one of the larger minority Muslim populations of the United States as there isn't an ethnic group that makes up the majority of American Muslims. They are represented in Sunni and Shia denominations as well as smaller sects, such as the Nation of Islam. The history of African American Muslims is related to African-American history, in general, and goes back to the Revolutionary and Antebellum Eras.

Muhammad Ali was initially raised as a Baptist before entering Islam.


  1. Roman Nomenclature at
  2. Johnson, Harold Whetstone; Johnston, Mary; Names of Freedmen; 1903, 1932;
  3. "Louis Farrakhan Biography". Database. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
  4. "Muhammad Ali Biography". Database. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
  5. Deburg, William L. Van, Modern Black Nationalism: From Marcus Garvey to Louis Farrakhan, NYU Press (1997), p. 269, ISBN   0-8147-8789-4
  6. Muhammad, Elijah ; Message to the Blackman; Chapter 24;
  7. Muhammad, Elijah; Message to the Blackman; Chapter 34;
  8. "NGUZO SABA (The Seven Principles)" From : US Organization website
  9. "Sinead O'Connor's mother 'ran a torture chamber'". The Independent. 2017-09-12. Retrieved 2019-10-25.
  10. "Sinead O'Connor (Shuhada Sadaqat): 'I'm rebuilding life' | The Point Of Everything" . Retrieved 2019-10-25.