This research examines concentration and similarity in the first name distributions of African Americans and whites resident in Mississippi in 1910. Data are drawn from the Public Use Sample of the 1910 Census, with names added from microfilm copies of original Census manuscripts. We find little difference in the degree of concentration of the name distributions and only modest dissimilarity in name choice. Multivariate analysis using age as a proxy for period of name assignment (birth cohort) indicates that racial differentiation in name choice increased over the period 1870 to 1910 primarily as a result of changes in the name choices of whites. We discuss these results in conjunction with the recent work of Lieberson and Bell (1992) on contemporary racial differences in naming patterns. Lieberson and Bell (1992) argue that African Americans in the contemporary period emphasize group differences by choosing “African” or “African sounding” names. In Mississippi in the period between the abolition of slavery and 1910, we argue that whites distanced themselves from African Americans by choosing increasingly the “whitest” names (e.g., those disproportionately chosen by whites). Changing naming patterns are not orchestrated group responses. Instead, they reflect emergent cultural responses to fundamental social change.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)