Among the various endeavors that African slaves made in becoming African American in culture, orientation, and identity was the formation of a culture of resistance involving the process of renaming themselves and their environment. Rebellious slaves constantly reverted to their African cultural forms, such as spirituality, burial rites, and the naming system for inspiration and guidance, and as a way of reasserting themselves and reaffirming their humanity in a hostile world. This paper is framed and motivated by the recent trend among African Americans to adopt African names (e.g., Kwesi Mfume, former president of the NAACP), or coin distinctly African American names (e.g., Lashandra), and to discuss the process of naming as part of the continuous African American culture of resistance, and also as a way of explaining and accounting for the predominance of names of animals, plants, musical items and proper names among the Africanisms in African American culture today. As a way of helping young people involved in cultural deconstruction and desirous of coining African names for themselves, the paper also discusses the linguistic process of name construction in Nguni, a branch of Bantu language from which many of the slaves originated. The aim of the paper is to make a significant contribution to the continuing process of cultural identity formulations, and further motivate African Americans (and others) in reclaiming their complex African roots in the continuing process of redefining themselves and dismantling the paradigm that kept them mentally chained for centuries.
Selected Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages and Linguistics in Broad Perspectives
edited by John Mugane, John P. Hutchison, and Dee A. Worman
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