Black History Month Washington the 'Blackest Name in America?'
Washington the 'Blackest Name in America?'
By BV Staff
Posted Feb 22nd 2011 1:45PM
What is the "blackest name in America?" If we're talking about surnames that would have to be "Washington." According to the 2000 Census, of the 160,036 people counted with the surname Washington 90 percent were African-American. Think about it--how often have you assumed someone with the last name Washington was African American and how often were you correct?
279 years after the birth of the father of our country, George Washington, who was most certainly a white man, AP's Jesse Washington attempts to answer the question how: just how did Washington become the blackest name in America?
Jesse Washington, an African American himself, traced the Washington name's lineage back to the Founding Father and found that the story of blacks' appropriation of the Washington name is as complex as George Washington's position on slavery.
George Washington was a slave owner himself; in fact, much of his wealth came from the free labor of enslaved blacks who worked the thousands of acres he owned. But the contradictions between the principles of his new found nation and the institution of slavery led to what George Washington biographer Ron Chernow describes as a "schizoid life." Though he was considered a relatively "good" slave master because of his treatment of the enslaved, Washington was also known to go to great lengths to retain his human property--often hunting down those who had escaped and even using his presidential powers to unsuccessfully attempt to retrieve runaway slaves from free territory. Conversely Washington holds the distinction of being the only slave-owning U.S. president to free all of his slaves--124 of them--after the death of his wife Martha.
So why would blacks want to name themselves after a man with such a checkered past? Historians speculate that though Washington was a slave owner his status as a symbol of freedom, independence and the higher ideals of America inspired many blacks to take on the name.
Read more about the history of the surname Washington at The Huffington Post.
"The 10 Blackest Names in America"
"%" indicates the percentage of people counted with that surname who identify themselves black or African American. [Source: 2000 US Census]
3. Booker 65.6%
4. Banks 54.2%
5. Jackson 53.0%
6. Mosley 52.8%
7. Dorsey 51.8%
8. Gaines 50.3%
9. Rivers 50.2%
10. Joseph 48.8%
Tags: blackest name in america, BlackestNameInAmerica, george washington, GeorgeWashington, jesse washington, JesseWashington, shannon washington, ShannonWashington, us census, UsCensus, washington