While Africans were given names upon being forcibly brought to America, there were some names which were recorded or stayed with the people for generations.


This was the name of Benjamin Banneker, who was the biracial, polymathic surveyor who provided the measurements for the space that would become Washington D.C. The name Banneker may have been an Anglicization of the name “Banaka” or other variants which may have roots in the Vai people who lived in the Mali Empire prior to moving westward in the 1500s. Banaka was also the name of a village in northwestern Liberia. “Banaka” may also have been associated with the Dogon people, who had knowledge of astronomy, which–as anthropologists argued in the 2002 biography about Benjamin Banneker-may have explained how Benjamin received knowledge about astronomy.


Although there have been slaves with this name, it is not clear where it came from. It does bear resemblance to the ancient Roman name Cato, however it may have been used to Anglicize a previous African name. That African name may have been Keita, which was rooted in the Keita dynasty, who ruled the Mali Empire.

Bearers of this Name:

  • Cato: leader of the Stono Slave Rebellion
  • Cato: a spy during the American Revolution on the side of the Americans.


This is the name of the region in Central Africa.

Bearer of this Name:

  • Louis Congo: he was a freed African slave who became the public executioner in Louisiana. His name Louis may have been derived from Louisiana, and Congo from the region he claimed to be originally from. What was unique about this man was that he could sign his own name.


It is typical in African names, specifically in West Africa, to give a child the name of the week-day that they were born. In the case of Cudjoe, it is derived from the Ghana word meaning “Monday.”

Bearers of this Name:

  • Boris Cudjoe: German actor known for appearances on Soul Food (2000) and Resident Evil films Afterlife (2010) and Retribution (2012).
  • Cudjoe Lewis: one of the last survivor of the the Clotilde and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.


It may have been derived from the name Kofi, which is derived from the Akan tribe, meaning “born on a Friday.” Once again, just like Cudjoe, this name is intended for those born on a Friday.

Bearers of this Name:

  • Coffy: the leader of a slave rebellion in Guiana.
  • William Cuffay: a biracial Chartist leader in London during the Victorian period.


They were originally from the Fanti tribe in Ghana. The name Quander originally came from the original African who was brought to America who gave his name as Kwandoh. Descendants would use the name Quander as their surname and they typically live in the Virginia and Maryland areas.


This was the name of the former slave Quock Walker, who successfully sued the state of Massachusetts for his freedom in 1780, citing a clause in the Massachusetts Constitution stating that all men are born equal.

Quock, it turns out, is an Anglicization of the Akan name Kwaku, which is given to any child born on a Wednesday.


This was supposed to be the name of the last African forcibly brought to America, along with Cudjoe Lewis. She would later be given the name Sally Smith by her master.


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