Slave names

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 11 16:16:09 UTC 2007

Way back when, there was a well-known novel entitled, "The View from
Pompey's Head." Pompey's Head was the name of the town that gave the
novel its name and Pompey was the slave after whom the town was named.
I've never read the novel or seen the movie, so I have no idea how
this name, Pompey's Head, came about. Black Jack, MO, a suburb of
Saint Louis, is a town that supposedly really is named after an actual


On Dec 10, 2007 5:19 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Slave names
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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_.
>   JL
> "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.
> Joel
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