Commonalities of Cultures

I discovered this a few years ago, but there seems to be a high correlation between Welsh and African American names. I discovered this arguing with my boyfriend about the almost stereotypical name of Jamal Jenkins, a character from the old children’s tv series, Ghostwriter. We reached the conclusion that while I saw it as a common Black surname, he viewed it as a typical Welsh surname. This then led to a sharing of surnames that also seemed to be both noticeably Black and Welsh, some of which are listed below:

Jenkins, Jones, Williams, Davis, Brown, Harris, Thomas, Evans

A quick search lead to the Data Wales website, which addresses this phenomenon with some interesting, if not well-researched, ideas.

In this context it might be useful to look at examples of Welsh place names in some of the southern states. Alabama has counties named Morgan and Montgomery… Georgia has the counties of Evans, Montgomery, Jones, Floyd, Morgan, Thomas, Glynn and Jenkins. There are smaller towns and villages named Davisboro, Evans, Jenkinsburg, Jonesboro, Morris, Morgan, Morganton, Pembroke… One correspondent had quizzed several African American friends about their names. This group, in the main, did not think that their ancestors had adopted the names of slave holders. They might well have adopted place name surnames from some of the locations above.

…it is true that in certain cases slaves adopted the names of their Welsh “owners” but several correspondents have reminded me of the “Underground Railroad”, a system designed to help slaves escape northwards. Apparently Welsh Quakers were prominently involved in this system and it is possible that some slaves, aided in this way, adopted the names of their helpers.

He also thinks it possible that due to the co-mingling of Welsh and African American communities during the creation of Baptist and Methodist churches in America (who knew the Welsh had anything to do with that?), surnames may have been shared and then passed down as followers took the name of their preachers and religious leaders.

The best thing about this discovery was that it all started with a fairly low-key conversation in the local pub. Yet another example of how interacting and communicating with another culture can provide you with insights into your own.


3 responses to “Commonalities of Cultures

  1. >Wow…who would have thought? Good researching!

  2. >Thanks! I like to think that Ghostwriter helped in some way.

  3. >That's interesting. My grandmother used to say that I was Black Welsh (which is kind of the same thing as Black Irish) because of my ruddy complexion. I remember when I was little kid watching a rerun of Good Times, for a moment I thought the Evans family was Black Welsh. It wasn't until my dad explained how the term Black Welsh came about that I understood.

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