What’s The “Blackest” Last Name? Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Or Jenkins?
Sony Pictures Television
What’s The “Blackest” Last Name?
It’s a question that has plagued us for forever. (And by “us” I mean “me” and by “forever” I mean “since like Wednesday, when I first thought about writing this.”) Out of all of America’s most popular surnames, which is the “Blackest?” And it’s a question that leads to other questions, like “How do you define Blackest?” and “What’s wrong with you?” and “Why do you even care about things like this?”
Fret not, because we will find a definitive answer today.
Before we begin, however, let’s discuss how Blackest is defined in this context.
1. Imagine you’re a screenwriter or show runner. And you’re tasked to write/produce a show about a Black family. The name of the family will also be the name of the show. And you have to choose a surname that lets everyone immediately know this is about a Black family, without explicitly saying it. Which last names do you think of first?
2. How important is the name to Black American culture, historically and currently? And is it immediately recognizable by most people as a Black name? For instance, Dorsey is a pretty Black-ass last name. Over 51% of people with that name identify as Black, which is quite a high number. But Dorsey just doesn’t have the same immediate “Damn. That’s a Black-ass name” recognition as Jenkins does.
3. Frequency matters, but it’s not the only thing that matters. For instance, The University of Memphis has more Black students than Spelman and Morehouse. Combined. But no one would consider it to be a “Blacker” school than either of them. Which is why although there are more Black Americans with Williams, Johnson, Smith, or Jones as their surname than any name on this list, none made the cut. There are mad White Johnsons.
4. I’m aware there are traditional surnames from some parts of the Caribbean and some African countries that are quite frequent in America now, but they’re excluded. For reasons. As are last names like “Shabazz” and “X” and “World Peace.”
Basically, all the names chosen are totally slave names. Which, when considering the history of the Black person in America, is both fitting and ironic. Especially when considering that the last name of the single most famous White American (George Washington) is possessed by like 17 White people today.
Anyway, onto the question:
The case for “Washington”
—Percentage wise, is the Blackest name on this list, as 90% of Americans with that name identify as Black. (Which actually surprised me when I saw that. I mean, we know why there are so many Black Washingtons, and there’s no need to go into that history. But where the hell did all the White Washingtons go?)
—Also happens to be the name of our capital and one of our states. Which actually kinda, sorta makes it less Black. (While you’re here, imagine for a second if someone named “Jenkins” was our first president, and the nation’s capital was Jenkins, D.C. This somehow makes the Chocolate City even more chocolatey. Jenkins, D.C. is a chocolate-ass sounding city.)
The case for “Jefferson”
Imagine you’re a screenwriter or show runner. And you’re tasked to write/produce a show about a Black family. The name of the family will also be the name of the show. And you have to choose a surname that lets everyone immediately know this is about a Black family, without explicitly saying it. Which last names do you think of first?
Well, when Norman Lear asked himself this question, Jefferson was his answer.
—Jefferson rates well percentage wise (75%) but it’s not a terribly common last name. It’s basically a niche Black last name. Not super popular, but extremely effective. The Reg E. Cathey of Black last names.
The case for “Jackson”
—Is the name of the single most famous Black American family. And, considering Jermaine’s hair issues, the single Blackest American family too.
—There’s a reason Outkast decided to name their song “Sorry Miss Jackson” and not “Sorry Miss Schmidt” or “Sorry Miss Nguyen.”
The case for “Jenkins”
—A sentimental favorite. Whenever I think of a fake Black family or fake Black person in my head, Jenkins is the last name I usually give them. I guess 227 really had an indelible effect on me.
—Statistically, is actually the least Black name on this list, as only 36% of people named Jenkins are Black. Which, quite frankly, surprises me. Because where the hell are all these White Jenkins hiding out? I really believed Sally Jenkins and Richard Jenkins were the only White Jenkins’ left in America. But I was wrong.
All things considered, it basically comes down to Jackson and Washington. And while I’m tempted to lean Jackson’s way because Janet and Michael and Samuel L, the sheer percentage of Black people named Washington makes me give them the title.