Slave names

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Dec 11 00:24:27 UTC 2007

At 12/10/2007 06:07 PM, Baker, John wrote:
>         Westlaw cases do show a number of references to slaves named
>Pompey or Caesar - more, in fact, than to slaves named Sambo or Cuffey
>(though I suspect that the spelling was not standardized for "Cuffey,"
>making direct comparisons difficult).  I can only speculate that
>classically trained slave owners liked to show off their knowledge.

If you'd like to check "Cuffey", variants (which lets one search with two groups) are
Coff and Cuff (which I think together produced
the two groups), Cuffee, Cuffy, Cuffey, Coffe,
and Coffee.  (There are perhaps a few rare
additional variants.  No Kofi in 1790 or
1830.)  Same problem with Caesar -- Ceasar, Ceaser, Seaser, Cesar, Cezar, etc.

Lorenzo Greene discusses the several categories
of slave names in “The New England Negro as Seen
in Advertisements for Runaway Slaves”, The
Journal of Negro History, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Apr.,
1944), 125–146.  I don't know whether he states
an opinion about *why* owners of
classically-named slaves chose those.  Another
group, of course, was Biblically-inspired names;
probably no need to speculate about why.


The American Dialect Society -

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