Problems of Identity with the Usurp of Slaves’ Names
This article focuses on the way slaves are named in antebellum period of America, with examples from select slave narratives. Various stake holders are involved and their motives played a pivotal role in giving names to new born slave children or in changing the names of grown up slaves. Slave traders, plantation masters, slave kidnappers, slave parents particularly slave mothers and others involved in naming the slaves. Assigning names or changing the names by others than the slave parents had deep impact on the slaves. It is like taking away the identity of the slaves by force and thereby giving new identities. Early slaves or the first generation of slaves brought from the African continent had names of African origin. Later the plantation masters named their slaves with the names of Greek and Latin origin, particularly with the names of pagan gods and names of Roman army generals. Later biblical names are given to slaves as the Bible is introduced to them. Slaves had to go through a traumatic experience when their names are changed after they grew up. This paper shows how and why the slaves name changed in American slavery and its impact on slaves.
Keywords: American Slavery; Antebellum Era; Slave Names; Greek and Latin; Forcing New Names; New Identities.
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