Since the end of the Civil War, African Americans have endeavored to create their own identity and regain a connection with their African roots. Names given to new babies as well as adopted by adults later in life, reflect this ideal.
From approximately the early 1600s until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865, Africans were brought to America against their will to be sold as slaves. Many African Americans can trace their ancestry to this slave trade.
Slaves were generally stripped of their traditional names and given new ones either by their captors or new owners. Slaves were often given names from the bible or that reflected the work that they did. Names that were short, simple and percussive like Tom, Jack, from Classical literature such as Nero, Venus and Caesar or were surnames of American leaders such as Washington or Madison were also given.
Directly after the Civil War, many freed slaves cast away their slave names and adopted new freely chosen ones. Some took on the full forms of their shortened names, while others embellished their names with various prefixes and suffixes. For example suffixes such as -inda turned a name like Clara into Clarinda, and Flora into Florinda. Created names were more popular for girls while boys were still given more traditional names like James or George.
Today, created names are very popular for both genders. Popular names are combined with various prefixes and suffixes which are often stressed in the pronunciation of the name. Suffixes such as -on, -won, -quon, -el, -ell and -isha help to form names like Davon and Marquon from David and Mark and Monisha from Monica. Prefixes often include Chan-, Shan-, Ka-, La-, De-, Ja-, Tri-, Wa- and Sha- and help to form names like LaTasha and Shandra. Traditional African names as well as names from the Muslim faith are also popular.