JAMES A. LANDAU Netscape. Just the Net You Need.
JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Mon Dec 17 02:14:23 UTC 2007
1. Did Massa really care about the names his slaves were given?
Answer: some did. Jefferson Davis, for one, was quite careful to give his slaves names they would be happy with (and, unusually, gave his slaves surnames). However, I imagine that the average plantation owner (it didn't really count as a plantation unless it had at least 25 slaves) didn't care, and the average (but un-stereotypical) slave parents probably followed their own preferences.
2. So far this thread has discussed Classical names such as Cato and Pompey. Although the rule was that slaves were not to be taught to read and write, many slaves (I have no idea of the percentage) managed to learn. Undoubtedly a few read Classical works (Homer was probably popular in slave quarters, being widely available in the 19th century) but I imagine the suggestion is correct that most of those (fairly rare?) Pompeys and Caesars were the result of Massa showing off his erudition.
On the other hand, Mark Twain in _Pudd'nhead Wilson_ had a slave woman name her son "Valet de Chambre" (he became known as "Chambers"). So slave parents sometimes went overboard with children's names, just as some whites do. (Not just whites. The opposing admirals at Pearl Harbor were Husband Kimmel and Fifty-six Yamamoto.)
3. Nobody has mentioned slaves whose names were neither ordinary nor classical. I can think of York, Booker Taliaferro Washington, Denmark Vesey, Dangerfield Newby, and Dred Scott.
James A. Landau
Northrop-Grumman Information Technology
8025 Black Horse Pike, Suite 300
West Atlantic City NJ 08232 USA
RTSXD OAOZU ALEBH SXRTH EUBTJ KHFRQ LOOXE
WPCSA LOUBV MDMHP OADJG LLOXP BGQET ZIUMW
LYKEK GFCDB AHNWA AOMAF GUW
Netscape. Just the Net You Need.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
More information about the Ads-l