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70 Baby Names Inspired by Famous Black Leaders from History

These famous Black girl and Black Boy names are inspired by important Black figures from history.
70 Baby Names Inspired by Famous Black Leaders from History
Updated: July 25, 2022

If you want your child to have a name that carries strength and resilience, consider making their namesake a Black leader. From Civil Rights leaders to trailblazing artists, singers, actors, and athletes, there are many Black men and women to find inspiration from when naming your baby boy or girl.

See our list below for girl, boy, and gender-neutral unique and popular names inspired by Black leaders.

Related: African-American First Names and Meanings

Black Girl Names and Meanings 

Black Girl Names and Meanings
  1. Alice - After Black American author Alice Walker, best known for The Color Purple. She was the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. This French name means “noble.”
  2. Beyonce - Multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning singer Beyonce Knowles. This name means “one who surpasses others.”
  3. Bessie - After Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman and Native American to hold a pilot’s license. Hebrew name meaning “pledged to God.”
  4. Coretta - After Coretta Scott King, author, activist, and civil rights leader who was the wife of Martin Luther King Jr. English name meaning ”from the round hill,” ”seething pool,” or ”ravine.”
  5. Ella - After Ella Fitzgerald, renowned jazz vocalist called “The First Lady of Song.” Ella is of Germanic and English origin, and means "all, completely” or ”fairy maiden".
  6. Harriet - After Harriet Tubman, the American abolitionist who saved around 70 slaves via the Underground Railroad.
  7. Janet - After Grammy award-winning singer and performer Janet Jackson.
  8. Josephine - After actress, singer, and dancer Josephine Baker, the first Black woman to star in a feature film whose entertainment career began in the 1920s. Variation of Joseph, Hebrew name means “shall grow.“
  9. Halle - Halle Balle was the first African American woman to win Best Actress at the Academy Awards. The name Halle is Norse for “heroine” or “army ruler.”
  10. Ida - After journalist, 19th-20th century activist, and researcher Ida B. Wells. Germanic for “labor” or “work.”
  11. Kamala - After the first Black female vice president Kamala Harris. Indian name meaning “lotus flower.”
  12. Katherine - Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician for NASA who helped with the first space flight. The name is Greek for “pure.”
  13. Mae - After Mae Jemison, engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut who was the first Black woman to travel to space. English for “bitter” or “pearl.”
  14. Mary - Mathematician and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson was the first Black female engineer to work for NASA. Hebrew name meaning “Miriam.”
  15. Maya - After author and poet Maya Angelou. Greek for “good mother.”
  16. Michelle - After Michelle Obama, First Black woman to serve as the First Lady of the United States. In French, this name means “who resembles God.”
  17. Nella - After librarian and novelist Nella Larsen. Latin for “horn,” “bright,” or “shining torch.”
  18. Oprah - After television producer, actress, and entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey. Hebrew for “gazelle.”
  19. Octavia - After multiple award-winning actress Octavia Spencer. Octavia is Latin for “eight”
  20. Regina - Academy Award-winning actress Regina King fittingly has this name which is Latin for “queen.”
  21. Rosa - A name to honor  well-known civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who is considered “the mother of the civil rights movement. The name Rosa is Italian and Catalan for “rose” or “flower.”
  22. Ruby - After Ruby Bridges, who led the fight against segregation as the first Black child to attend William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana. A Latin name meaning “deep red precious stone.”
  23. Simone - After Olympic athlete Simone Biles, who has set multiple Olympic records in gymnastics and fought for mental health and athlete safety. Biles was the recipient of the 2022 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  24. Sojourner - After Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. In French, this name means “to stay a while.”
  25. Tina - Tina Turner is a singer and actress who is regarded as the“Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll.” A shortened version of Christina, a Latin name meaning “follower of Christ.”
  26. Serena - Record-holding tennis player Serena Williams is known for having most Grand Slam singles titles across men’s and women’s tennis. Serena is Latin for “clear, tranquil, serene.”
  27. Viola - Viola Davis is notable as the first Black woman to win an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony. The name Viola is Latin for “violet” or purple.”
  28. Zora - After Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God.Slavic for “sunrise.”

Black Boy Names and Meanings 

Black Boy Names and Meanings
  1. Barack - After former US president Barack Obama. Barack is an Arabic name meaning “blessed.”
  2. Bernie - After actor and comedian Bernie Mac (full name Bernard Jeffrey McCullough). This Germanic name means “strong and brave bear.”
  3. Booker - After author, presidential advisor, and public speaker Booker T. Washington. He was the first Black teacher and principal at the Tuskegee Institute. Booker is a British name meaning “scribe.”
  4. Chadwick - After actor Chadwick Boseman, award-winning actor best known for his role as T’Challa in the Marvel film Black Panther. Chadwick is an English name meaning “town or village of Chad” or “dairy farm.”
  5. Don - After actor and director Don Cheadle, known for his role in Hotel Rwanda and for directing the 2015 film Miles Ahead. Irish for “brown,” “chief,” or “noble.”
  6. Denzel - After award-winning American actor, director, and producer Denzel Washington. Denzel is an English name meaning “from the high stronghold” or “fertile land.”
  7. Duke - After jazz composer and performer Duke Ellington. Middle English for “leader.”
  8. Eddie - After actor, comedian, writer, producer, and singer Eddie Murphy who rose to fame on Saturday Night Live. Eddie is the shortened form of the English name Edward, meaning “wealth” or “guardian of riches.”
  9. Frederick - After Frederick Douglass the famous African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. Means “peaceful ruler.”
  10. Jay - After Jay-Z (legally named Shawn Corey Carter), American rapper, record executive, and media proprietor. English for “to rejoice.”
  11. John - After John Lewis, American politician and civil rights activist. Hebrew derived, meaning “graced by God.”
  12. Langston - After best-selling author and poet Langston Hughes who was one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. This name means “long stone.”
  13. Kobe - A name inspired by the famous NBA player Kobe Bryant who unexpectedly passed in January 2020. Kobe is a Hebrew name meaning “supplanter.”
  14. Kwame - After Civil Rights organizer Kwame Ture, born Stokely Carmichael. This African name means “born on a Saturday.”
  15. Malcolm - Malcolm X was a Black Muslim minister and human rights activist and leader of The Black Panthers. Malcolm is a Scottish Gaelic name meaning “devotee of Saint Columba.”
  16. Martin - After Martin Luther King Jr., Baptist minister and leader of the civil rights movement. The Latin name means “of Mars” or “war/warlike.”
  17. Medgar - After Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers. Means “prosperity, fortune, riches.”
  18. Michael - This name works both for basketball superstar Michael Jordan, or musician Michael Jackson aka the “King of Pop.“
  19. Morris - In honor of award-winning actor Morris Chestnut, whose breakout role was in Boyz n the Hood. Morris is Latin for “Moorish” or “dark, swarthy.”
  20. Nelson - After Nelson Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid activist and the first president of South Africa. British for “champion.”
  21. Shaquille - After Shaquille O’Neal, entrepreneur and former professional basketball player. Shaquille is Arabic for “well developed, handsome.”
  22. Taye - After actor and Broadway performer Taye Diggs. Taye is an African name that means “he has been seen.”
  23. Thurgood - After former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. English name means “thorough and good.”
  24. Tiger - American professional golfer Tiger Woods, redefined the sport of golf and has currently won 70 PGA tournaments. Tiger is an American name meaning “powerful cat.”
  25. Tupac - After rapper and actor Tupac Shakur (who also went by 2Pac). Tupac is an Incan name meaning “royal.”
  26. Wesley - After Wesley Snipes, American actor, film producer, and martial artist. Wesley is an Anglo-Norman name meaning “western lea.”
  27. William - After W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois was an American sociologist, socialist, historian, and Pan-Africanist civil rights activist who led the Harlem Renaissance and founded the NAACP. In English, William means “strong-willed warrior.”

Gender-Neutral Black Baby Names and Meanings 

  1. 1 Alex - After Alex Haley, author of Roots. This Greek name means “defender of mankind.” In Old English, Alex also means “determination” or “strength.”
  2. Billie - After American jazz and swing singer Billie Holiday. Variation of William, the name means “determination” or “strength.”
  3. Forest - After actor and activist Forest Whitaker. A French name, meaning “woodsman” or “woods.”
  4. Jackie - Jackie Robinson was the first Black Major League Baseball player as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers 
  5. Jamie - In honor of Jamie Foxx, a multi-award-winning actor, comedian, and singer. Jamie translates to “he who supplants.”
  6. Jean - After Jean Michel-Basquiat, neo-expressionist artist in the 1980s. French name means “God is gracious.“
  7. Jesse (or Jessie) - After Jesse Owens, one of the greatest athletes in track and field history. Or The Rev. Jesse Jackson, political activist and politician. English or Dutch origin name meaning “God’s gift.”
  8. Morgan - After award-winning actor, director, and narrator Morgan Freeman. Welsh for “sea-born,” “sea-song,” or “sea-circle.”
  9. Percy - After Percy Julian. Julian was a Black pioneer chemist who led the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs including cortisone, steroids, and birth control pills. In French, Percy means “one who pierces the valley.”
  10. Ray - After soul musician Ray Charles, recipient of 13 Grammy Awards. English for “counsel protection.”
  11. Reggie - After baseball player Reggie Jackson. This Latin name means “ruler’s advisor.”
  12. Sidney - Sidney Poitier was the first Black actor to win an Academy Award. Poitier was also a notable director and diplomat Sidney is English or French for “river in a meadow.”
  13. Stevie - After musical pioneer Stevie Wonder. This name of Greek origins means  “crown.”
  14. Toni - After Toni Morrison, American novelist, play writer, and children‘s book writer. The Bluest Eye was her first book, published in 1970. Greek name meaning “flower” or “priceless one.”
  15. Whitney - After platinum singer-songwriter Whitney Houston or activist Whitney Moore. British for “white island.”

For more baby name inspiration, visit our Baby Name Center.  

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70 Baby Names Inspired by Famous Black Leaders from History


Stephanie Sokol

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