Baby names inspired by Black Americans who changed the course of history

Draw inspiration for your little one's name from this list of leaders and pioneers.

Baby names inspired by Black Americans who changed the course of history
@caitlinrheaphotos/Twenty20

For some parents, naming their baby is an easy task. Whether it's because they select names that have been in their family for generations or because they've had a favorite name picked out for years, some people have no problem choosing a name for their little one.

And then there's the rest of us.

If you're still searching for a name for your little one, know that you're not alone. Plenty of parents-to-be struggle with this important task.

You might want to consider looking to the past for inspiration for your child's future. Every person on this list changed the course of history, either through their words or actions.

If you're looking for a role model to inspire your family, you won't find many better than the names on this list.


Writers

If you hope your child will be a gifted storyteller, you might want to choose the name of a prolific writer.

Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde were all gifted female writers. If you're having a boy, you might want to consider naming your son after Langston Hughes, James Baldwin or August Wilson.

If you're a fan of contemporary literature, you might want to consider naming your little one after Jesmyn Ward, Colson Whitehead or Ta-Nehisi Coates. We also love the name Nora Keita, like Hugo Award-winner N.K. Jemisin.

Entertainers

Inspire your child to lean into her artistic abilities by naming her after an entertainer.

Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Cicely Tyson, Hattie McDaniel, Halle Berry and Lena Horne all broke ground for African American artists.

Your little boy will surely be inspired to take to the stage if he's named after a legendary performer like Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Ray Charles or Sidney Poitier.

Scientists

Encourage a love of science and mathematics in your child by naming them after one of these brilliant minds.

Mae Jemison, Katherine Johnson, Jewel Plummer Cobb, Alexa Canady and Annie Easley achieved great things with their analytical minds.

Consider naming your son after great thinkers like Booker T. Washington, Percy Julian, George Washington Carver, Edward Bouchet and Benjamin Banneker.

Athletes

These athletes transcend their respective sports and their legacies are more than just their athletic achievements.

Serena and Venus Williams, Wilma Rudolph, Althea Gibson, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Florence Griffith Joyner are all incredible role models for your daughter to look up to.

If you want your son to be a leader, consider naming him after Jackie Robinson, Kobe Bryant, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Arthur Ashe, Tiger Woods, Hank Aaron, Bill Russell, Jesse Owens or Jim Brown.

Pioneers, politicians and activists

Inspire your little one to reach for new heights and lead the people around them by naming them after one of these historic leaders.

Bessie Coleman, Harriet Tubman, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Jane Bolin, Carol Moseley Braun, Shirley Chisolm and Kamala Harris all broke barriers in their time. Vice President Harris is still writing history today, too.

Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John Lewis and Barack Obama all changed the world with their courage and leadership.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

In This Article