Memorable Character Names in 100 Novels Project

[By Kenton Rambsy]

With all of the attention on Blue Ivy—Jay Z and Beyonce’sdaughter—I got to thinking about the varied representations of characters and significance of names in African American literature. I began to look at the selections in the “100 Novels Project” and compiled a list of the most memorable character names in our collection.
Today, I chose to highlight five character names in five novels out of the “100 Novels Collection.” Surveying a list of names across a 153 history of African American history can lead insight into the artistic imagination of Morrison as well as the similar and dissimilar ways black writers create character personas.

Alex HaleyRoots 
1) Kunta Kinte
2) Belle Waller
3) Kizzy Waller
4) George “Chicken George” Lea
5) Matilda
Alice WalkerThe Color Purple  

1) Celie

2) Nettie
3) Mister (Albert Johnson)
4) Shug Avery
5) Harpo
RalphEllisonInvisible Man
1) Ras the Exhorter
2) Rinehart
3) Reverend Homer A. Barbee
4) Jim Trueblood
5) **Narrator (Unnamed character)
Richard WrightNative Son 
1) Bigger Thomas
2) Buddy Thomas
3) Bessie Mears
4) Gus
5) Doc
Zora NealeHurstonTheir Eyes Were Watching God
1) Janie Mae Crawford
2) Tea Cake
3) Jody Starks
4) Leafy Crawford
5) Motor Boat

[Related: 30 Days of 100 Novels]