Slave names

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Dec 10 22:19:08 UTC 2007

I wonder about the source of our stereotype that slaves were so stereotypically named "Caesar" and "Pompey."  Surely it comes from fiction?

  There's a minstrel song involving "Pompey Squash." Can't think of any other "Pompeys." Haven't checked _Gone with the Wind_.


"Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Joel S. Berson"
Subject: Re: Slave names

Pertinently to my real project, following Bill Mullin's lead I
counted "slave names" in the Federal censuses of 1790 and 1830, from Of course I cannot tell who was a slave -- for
example, some Cesars, Cesares, etc. are French or Italian (I did not
count the occasional Czar) -- and for these two years the database
does not have a column for race. I looked at only the following 5
name groups, including variant spellings:

YEAR 1790 1830
Caesar 73 189
Pompey 26 79
Scipio 11 14
Cuffee 29 13
and, ironically and surprisingly to me, considering his
reputation (and Trenchard/Gordon's) among the Colonial elite:
Cato 54 88

It is perhaps of interest that "Cuffee" declined; I would hypothesize
that either fewer slaves arrived directly from Africa, or such
"alien" names became less popular among owners, or both.

(A few persons are identified as "Negro", "free", or "Freeman" in the
name column, but so few that I think no conclusions should be drawn.)

If anyone wants to suggest a few more "day names", I will add those
to this list.


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