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„Rose, formerly called Grace“

Fremd- und selbstinitiierter Namenwechsel afro-amerikanischer Sklaven im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert

Anna-Maria Balbach

Pages 79 - 104

Abstract: The name change of African-American slaves is a phenomenon that has hardly been studied to date. On the basis of so-called “runaway ads” from the 18th and 19th centuries, published at, we have compiled a corpus of fugitive slaves’ names. It allows us to investigate self- and foreign-initiated name changes. 89 of these advertisements report name changes, about half of which were forcibly decreed by the masters, the other half were elected by the escaped slaves themselves. We categorized and examined the individual names in close detail, to show which kind of names were given to slaves and which kind of names the slaves themselves chose when they had the opportunity to name themselves. The investigation shows that for their slaves, masters chose names from a specific and limited name inventory, which they also used to name their animals. If slaves had the choice to select their own names, they oriented themselves towards Anglo-American names. However, they did not always abandon their old name entirely but developed strategies to incorporate parts of their old names into their new names.


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