MEANING OF SLAVES' NAMES
The names below are important for two reasons. First, for many of those who were enslaved in Brookline, the names are the only personal information we now have on them, which is a disgrace.
We can acknowledge their humanity and individuality by calling their names.
Second, the names themselves tell stories, both of the power of slave owners and also of resistance by the enslaved. Most names express owners' desire to belittle slaves and to assert the owners' own elevated cultural heritage.
Owners chose names that were
- Biblical names of enslaved people: Hagar, Dinah
- Other Biblical names: Adam, Jethro, Peter
- Diminutive names: Jack, Jackie, Jenny, Kate, Moll, Tobey
- Place names, especially of slave ports: Boston, Ben Boston, Exeter, Kent, Warwick
- Classical names to indicate the owners' cultured ways: Caesar, Dido, Pompey, Primus, Venus
However, some enslaved people were able to keep names from West Africa.
In Brookline, African names chiefly came from the Akan people of present-day Ghana and the Ivory Coast:
- Jack (an anglicized version of the Akan name Quaco)
- Ackey, Quaco, Cuff (and its variations, Cuffe and Coff)
- Cuff, more properly Kofi, is also the name of the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.
- Sambo is a name from Senegal.
At least one of the seven known Native American enslaved men kept his traditional name: Tounnaguin.
NAMES OF ENSLAVED BROOKLINERS:
We know of over eighty enslaved people in Brookline. This number, however, is an estimate, because some people may not have been mentioned in owners' documents or counted in tax and census forms. Also, a few people may have inadvertently been double-counted. (Note: some names appear repeated, but are the names of distinct people).
- and eighteen whose owners listed them in documents simply as 'negro' 84 enslaved people