What's in a Name
In a hapless attempt to explain how a man living on unemployment who reportedly has no cell phone, computer or clue could have received a clear majority win in the race for the Democratic Party’s U.S. Senate nomination, Democratic state Sen. Robert Ford opined that perhaps a disproportionate number of the black electorate voted for Alvin Greene because they assumed he was black. "No white folks have an 'e’ on the end of Green," he told T he Post and Courier. "T he blacks after they left the plantation couldn’t spell, and they threw an 'e’ on the end." As if to emphasize Ford’s point, many of the images splayed over the media are of Alvin Greene posing in a T -shirt that reads "Greene Family Reunion 1993." Ford’s observation surely arose from an honest befuddlement with a situation that has left most of the political establishment grasping for answers. His many years of experience in the Lowcountry have certainly informed his assumptions about how the name "Greene" might play to the African-American electorate; Greene is, in fact, a common name among African-Americans in South Carolina. But his comments overlook the important but littleknown history of how freed slaves used names to develop their own identity - one of the few things they could control. (T hey also ignore the equally common appearance of the name "Greene" among white S.C. families - not to mention Nathanael Greene, the Revolutionary War hero after whom Greenville was named.) If we look to the rich and nuanced reasons that name changes occurred after the Civil War, we can better understand his analysis of how racial politics may have played into the current mess.
Ashton, Susanna Margaret (2010), "What's in a Name", Humanities Commons, doi: 10.17613/zyj0-g441