February is Black History Month—and there's a rich array of historic names to choose from, if you're looking to honor the past. Here are some of my favorite picks, and the stories behind them.
Harriet was my cool name of the week pick last week, and with good reason. There's Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave who helped dozens of slaves escape abuse through her Underground Railroad. It's a classic name that means "ruler."
Frederick also means ruler, and it's the name of Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and went on to fight against it and become a political activist and the first African-American nominated for the Vice Presidency. (He also fought for women's suffrage, decades before women won the right to vote.)
Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus, and went on to become a driving force in the Civil Rights Movement. Her lovely name means "rose."
Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged non-violence as a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement. His name, Martin, actually means the opposite—warlike.
Langston Hughes was one of the leading members of the Harlem Renaissance, a poet and novelist in 1920s New York. He was the first African-American man to make his living solely on writing and speaking engagements. Langston is actually an English surname that means "long man's town."
Zora Neale Hurston's most important novel was Their Eyes Were Watching God—but this novelist and playwright, another member of the Harlem Renaissance, also served as an anthropologist studying the Caribbean and the American South. Her name, Zora, means dawn.
Carter G. Woodson was a prominent African-American historian—and is noted as the creator of Black History Month. His name has become trendy lately, and is in the top 10 in some states.
Hiram hasn't been in vogue since the turn of the 20th century, and dropped out of the top 1000 back in the 1980s. This Hebrew name, which means "brother of the exalted," was the name of the first African-American Senator, Hiram Revels.
Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice—and he sports an old-fashioned virtue name. It means "thoroughly good," a trait you could attribute to this historic figure.
Malcolm X was a strong leader who pushed for civil rights for African-Americans, and a Muslim minister. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., he was assassinated. His name, Malcolm, is a royal name in Scotland, and has been consistently in the top 600 names in the U.S.