Skip to main content

Updated January 9, 2024

Table of contents

African American names first became popular and distinctive in the 1950s and 1960s.

 Before this time, it was very common for Black Americans and recent immigrants to either name or change their children's names to assimilate into American culture better. As a result, most baby names were heavily influenced by European, and English descended names. 

african american first names
 Unique African American names flourished and rose to popularity throughout the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement and were adopted rapidly during the 1970s. During this time, Black Americans sought ways to diversify themselves and embrace their African and West Indie roots. 
Many popular names African Americans used to draw inspiration from global origins, including French, Arabic, Muslim, and European and Biblical names. It is a tradition that has continued to grow since the civil rights movement and has resulted in many wonderfully unique names.

Biblically Inspired Names and Meanings

African American culture is heavily invested in the Christian church. Africans brought here as enslaved people were often forced to convert to Christianity and attend church. Attending church may have been the only free time some plantation owners granted their slaves. As a result, enslaved African Americans turned to God and the church as a place of solace and respite, and the old testament inspired many names. 

Biblical Boy Names 

  1. Amos - Amos was a Biblical prophet of Jewish culture around the 8th century. 
  2. Elijah - A Hebrew name that means My God if Yahweh. Eli is a cute name for Elijah.
  3. Isaiah - A Hebrew name meaning God’s associate.
  4. Jamal - Hebrew. Handsome. 
  5. Zephan - Hebrew. Blessing of the Lord. 

Biblical Girl Names 

  1. Abana - Hebrew. Made of stone.
  2. Eliza - A Spanish or Italian name with Hebrew roots that means God is a promise.
  3. Makayla - A Latin and feminized version of Michale that means Who is like God.
  4. Ruth - Hebrew. Friend. 
  5. Sarah - Hebrew/Persian. Princess.

Arabic and Muslim Names and Meanings

Civil rights leaders like Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali inspired many African Americans to convert to Muslim or to at least learn and be influenced by African Muslim culture and history. Historians estimate that 10-30% of Africans brought to the Americas as slaves were Muslim. As a result of interest in African Americans tracing their roots, there was an increase in Arabic names and Muslim names. 

African-American Muslim Boy Names

  1. Asaad - Arabic. Lion.
  2. Darius - Arabic/Persian. Possessing goodness. 
  3. Hakeem - Arabic. Wise.
  4. Malik - Muslim. King. 
  5. Zuma - Arabic. Peace. 

African-American Muslim Girl Names

  1. Akilah - Arabic. Intelligent or logical. It is a variation of the name Aaliyah. 
  2. Aisha - Muslim. The name of Mohammed’s favorite wife. 
  3. Imani - Arabic/Swahili. Faith. 
  4. Jasmine - Persian/Arabic. Flower. 
  5. Noor - Arabic. Light. 

African American first names

French-Inspired Names and Meanings 

Many of the West Indes and parts of Africa were settled or ruled by the French. Louisiana and parts of the American south were also French-occupied, which resulted in a unique language called Creole. 

French (African) Boy Names

  1. Andre - Man, warrior.
  2. Autry - Strength, power. 
  3. Curtis - Humble or courteous one. 
  4. Marquis - Nobleman. 
  5. Xavier - New house. 

French (African) Girl Names

  1. Antoinette - Invaulable. 
  2. Bernadette - Brave as a bear. 
  3. Chantelle - Stony.
  4. Josephine - Jehovah increases. 
  5. Lenora - Light. 

Historical African American Baby Names and Meanings

Because America is indeed the world’s melting pot, many cultures have inspired names we think of today as popular Black names.

Boy Names

  1. Booker - Old English. Bookbinder. A popular baby boy name because of Booker T. Washington, an African American educator, orator, and presidential advisor in the late 19th and early 20th century.
  2. Jalen - Greek origins. Healer. Tranquil. 
  3. Justus - Latin. Justice. 
  4. Lamonte - Gaelic. Man of Law. 
  5. Tyrone - Irish. Land of Owen.

Girl Names

  1. Alexis - Greek. Defender. 
  2. Alicia - Scandinavian/Swedish. Noble.
  3. Destiny - Latin. Fate.
  4. Isis - Egyptian. Throne.
  5. Nikita - Sanskrit. House. 

Gender-Neutral Names

  1. Angel - Latin. Messenger of God. 
  2. Dakota - Native American. Allies, friends. 
  3. Journey - American. A trip or experience. 
  4. Presley - English. Priest’s meadow. 
  5. Shiloh - Hebrew. Tranquil. 


Most Popular African American First Names on FamilyEducation:

  1. Jevonte
  2. Kyrone
  3. Tamika
  4. Shantel

L. Elizabeth Forry

About L. Elizabeth Forry

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with 15 years of classroom… Read more

Subscribe to Family Education

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.