February is Black History Month, and so we’ve curated a short list of names from Black history that represent strength, resilience, and the spirit of a community. Black history is filled with names that ring with power, reminding us of the incredible contributions made by these iconic names.


Arthur Schomburg was a distinguished historian, and curator of the Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints for the New York City Public Library, and an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Arthur Fletcher was a member of the U.S. Commision of Civil Rights and is famous for coining the slogan for the United Negro College Fund, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”


Barack Obama was the 44th President of the United States. Born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Obama is of mixed race, with a Kenyan father and an American mother. He rose to prominence as a member of the Democratic Party and made history as the first African American to be elected as President of the United States.


Even though it was definitely frowned upon at the time, Benjamin Banneker made a place for himself in the late 1700s, as an astronomer, inventor, and mathmetician. He invented for himself a working clock that struck at the hour.


Three inspiring African-American Camilles include philanthropist Camille Cosby, sculptor Camille Billops, and actress Camille Yarbrough.


“Father of Black History,” Dr. Carter G. Woodson, single-handedly spearheaded what would ultimately become Black History Month in 1926, though it was originally for just one week.


George Washington Carver was an African American scientist, botanist, and inventor who made significant contributions in the fields of agriculture and botany. He was born into slavery around 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri. Carver’s research focused on finding alternative crops and methods to improve the agricultural practices of Southern farmers, particularly those growing cotton. He promoted the cultivation of peanuts, sweet potatoes, and other crops as alternatives to replenish soil nutrients and diversify agricultural production.

Beyond his scientific contributions, Carver was a highly respected educator and mentor. He taught at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama for many years.


As a name, Cree hits all the right trends. It’s a short, long-voweled unisex name with a rugged air. It is a Native American tribe, as well as the name of Cree Summer, actress and voiceover artist. It would be interesting to name a child after her, considering she does a lot of voiceover work on children’s programming.

Black and white drawing of Crispus Attucks
Crispus Attucks


Do you know who the first American to lose his life in the American Revolution was? It was Crispus Attucks, a man widely accepted to have been of African and Native American descent.


Della Reese is a famous singer and actress. Della Reese is actually her stage name, a variant of her birth name, Delloreese Early, which is equally intriguing.


Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was an American jazz pianist, composer, and leader of his eponymous jazz orchestra from 1923 through the rest of his life.

Black and white headshot of Duke Ellington smiling
Duke Ellington


This Old English classic was borne by Edward Bouchet, the first African-American to receive a Ph.D from a U.S. University and by cofounder of Essence magazine, Edward Lewis.


You just can’t beat jazz songbird, Ella Fitzgerald. Ella was #14 on the 2009 Social Security Administration list, and continues to be on the rise. It’s not hard to see why- it is simple and to-the-point and has Ella Fitzgerald to back it up.

Black and White photo of Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald


Frederick is name meaning “peace ruler” which is appropriate, considering these famous Fredericks: Frederick Gregory, astronaut, Frederick Patterson, founder of the United Negro College Fund, and Frederick Douglass, author, editor, abolitionist, and minister.


George means “farmer” which is interesting since it was farmers whom George Washington Carver’s research most benefited. He was a botanist and chemist who did extensive studies on the uses of a variety of crops, such as peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes.


Oh glorious Gloria! Aside from its lovely meaning and sound, Gloria has an ample supply of talented African-American bearers, such as Dr. Gloria Randle Scott, an educator also known for being the first African-American to head the Girl Scouts of USA and also president of Bennett College from 1987 to 2001. If that’s not enough, there’s award-winning author Gloria Naylor and actress Gloria Foster.


Here’s another double-duty name. Reverend Jesse Jackson is a civil rights leader and track-star Jesse Owens was an Olympic gold-medalist, famously annoying Adolf Hitler during the Berlin Olympics of 1931, by winning not one but four gold medals. By the way, Jesse was actually his nickname, his real name was James Cleveland Owens.


Josephine Baker is an interesting individual. She was a dancer, singer, and actress, the first African-American actress to star in a major motion picture. She joined in the Civil Rights Movement, and Ernest Hemingway said she was “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.”


In 1761, when the poem “An Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries” was printed, Jupiter Hammon because the first African-American to be published in the United States.


Leontine, a name that sounds positively powerful. Leontine Kelly was the first African American woman elected bishop in the United Methodist Church and Leontyne Price is a much-lauded opera soprano.


What list of famous African Americans would be complete without the talented poet laureate Maya Angelou? The name Maya is popular at the moment, parents undoubtedly being inspired by Angelou, as well as the name’s lovely sound. It is generally pronounced MY-ah, but some choose MAY-ah instead.

U.S. president Barack Obama presenting Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom
U.S. president Barack Obama presenting Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom


Dr. Niara Sudarkasa is a busy lady! She is a noted scholar, educator, and anthropolgist, and holds over 13 honorary degrees. She was the first African-American woman to teach at Columbia University and the first woman to be president of Lincoln University.


Dr. Ralph Bunche worked his way from valedictorian of his high school class, to then again of his graduating UCLA class, and he eventually earned a master’s and a doctorate at Harvard. He was the first African American to receive a Ph.D in political science from an American university. Oh, and did I mention he also was the first African American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize?


This exotic gem is borne by prominent author and folklorist, Zora Neale Hurston. She has been inspirational to many African-American writers, such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison.

Headshot of Jennifer Moss

Jennifer Moss (she/her) is the founder of BabyNames.com, author of The Baby Names Workbook, and Producer of The Baby Names Podcast. Jennifer is widely regarded as the leading expert on popular baby name trends and the naming process, serving as the authoritative source on the subject for national and international media.

Jennifer entered the tech arena in the 80s as a software developer and database architect, and became a pioneer in the Internet industry. In addition to operating BabyNames.com, Jennifer owns a web development agency in central California.