What’s The “Blackest” Last Name? Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Or Jenkins? » VSB

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What’s The “Blackest” Last Name? Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Or Jenkins?

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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”

—Remember this?

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.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • RewindingtonMaximus

    Jackson is a famous name, but it’s not going to be the most attributed to Black.

    Jones…you all know some Joneses.

    Jenkins is the king…if you even meet a light skinned person with the last name Jenkins, you’re slightly surprised because you looking for super Black folks

    • Kas

      Finest girl in my neighborhood when I was grow up was Brenda Jenkins.

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        Bet she was black stallion with skates on

  • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

    Jenkins and Jones tie for the win

  • A.G.

    Jenkins has my vote. Perkins is probably a less popular first cousin.

    • Kas

      I see no lies here.

  • I vote Watkins as can’t get no Blacker.

    Then Perkins.

    Special mention: Brown, Black, Negroidian.

    • Kas

      Watkins? Go back to peering at NFL backsides while the grownups figure this out.

      • Tsk. Say it out loud and instantly feel blacker.

        “Watkins…”

        -blink- How’d these sunflower seeds get in my hand?

        • Kas

          But we both know you cracking them before you put them in your mouth and prefer crystal lite over Kool aid. It’s ok, all are welcome here, even the melanin challenged ones.

          • Crystal Lite is not allowed in my residence. Kool Aid can kick it tho. And as a human being with a human throat, yes I’m cracking those seeds first. Whatever, I’m changing my vote to Watkins-Negroidian.

            • Kas

              You know I like you, but man you make it difficult.

        • Too funny.

      • Betty’s Babygirl

        Watkins is super common in the Carolinas and the prodigy of those who moved north. Thank you very much sir.

        • Kas

          Please have a seat at the small table next to Sawyer.

          • Betty’s Babygirl

            I don’t want to and you can’t make me. So there!

  • No Google

    jones and harris

  • Damon Young

    Perkins? Really?

    • miss t-lee

      I know a lot of Black Perkins.

      • Vanity in Peril

        I know a lot of black folk that eat at Perkins.

        Wait. I’m thinkin of ol’ country buffet. Carry on.

        • miss t-lee

          Never heard of it…lol

          • Lea Thrace

            What? Perkins is like fancy Shoneys. They dont have those out in TX?

            ETA: Fancy Shoneys is still not fancy tho. It’s hot garbage still.

            • miss t-lee

              Nah.
              We did have Shoney’s back in the gap. I don’t remember it being good…lol

              • Cheech

                When did Bob’s become Shoney’s, and why?

                • miss t-lee

                  I don’t know what a Bob’s is.

                  • Cheech

                    Bob’s Big Boy. They used to be everywhere, and then many of them were gone and some of them were Shoney’s. And some of the menu was the same but not all of it. I never got the story.

                    • miss t-lee

                      Never seen one. Heard of one in a movie once. But that’s about it.

    • YeaSoh

      Who are you asking? It’s your article

      • Damon Young

        lol, i’m addressing comments

        • Nia

          Jones Williams White Washington James Smith

  • miss t-lee

    Jenkins is my vote.

    • Madame Zenobia

      Jenkins pronounced “Jane-CANS” correct?

      • miss t-lee

        You know it! LOL

      • Kas

        Uh, how else would you pronounce it? QTNA

        • Madame Zenobia

          “Jean-Kins”/”Jenk-inns”
          “Jen-Kins” (Jen like short for Jennifer)
          “Jean-kin” (leaving off the ‘s’)

          • Kas

            I think you missed my humor.

            • Madame Zenobia

              Aaaah, I did. Sorry. That’s why I shouldn’t work and VSB at the same time. But you right. There is no other way. :)

  • Jenkins just sounds like good a$$ fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and 7 up cake… all the family reunions are bomb af and they can all fight.

    • miss t-lee

      Sounds like ham hocks, pot liquor, sock it to me cake, and fried fish.

      • My family apparently lost its recipe for sock it to me cake. For years, I thought it was only ours. We need to get it back. Until then, I’m friending every Jenkins I meet for some 7Up cake.

        • miss t-lee

          7 up cake is good. Sock it to me cake is good. It can’t touch a good sour cream poundcake, or chocolate sheet cake #doe.

          • Soooooo good. It’s my fave..

            • Nik White

              I grew up on Jiffy and hot water cornbread!

              • Kas

                Hot water, say it again

                • Nik White

                  With catfish and greens…collards that is.

                  • Kas

                    We can hang

                    • Nik White

                      Yessir

                  • NonyaB

                    Don’t do cornbread and first time ever hearing of hot water edition but it warms my soul that Costcos on the west coast carry catfish fillet.

                  • Mochasister

                    Ah, sooky sooky now! With some macaroni and cheese (the kind with at least four cheeses because who gives a damn about arteries!) and dressing made from cornbread.

                    • Nik White

                      How else is dressing made?

                    • Mochasister

                      Some people do half corn bread and the other half bread crumbs. We make ours completely from corn bread.

              • kneelbeforetigers

                TALK THIS LOUDER FOR THE CHEAP SEATS

          • Sour cream pound cake..yaaaaaaas lawd.. I put sour cream and mozzarella cheese in my cornbread so it can taste like pound cake…moist cornbread..mmmmmmm

            • miss t-lee

              See…that’s where we differ I don’t do sweet cornbread. I’ll frisbee that sh*t.

              We can agree on that sour cream poundcake #doe. PERFECTION.

              • Kas

                You ever have Cuban coffee? It explains everything.

              • No sweet cornbread? What in Ni66a heII is going hurr? I try to love you and then you do THIS. hmmmpf

                • miss t-lee

                  No ma’am.
                  We don’t do sweet cornbread.
                  Ew.
                  If I want cake, I’ll eat cake…lol

                  • I am going to downvote you…cause petty. lmao

                  • divadahling

                    I’m right there with you. Some hot-out-of-the-oven buttermilk white cornbread slathered with butter. Mmm…

                    • miss t-lee

                      See we do yellow cornmeal down here…but yes! Hard to beat a slice of cornbread with butter.

                    • Yay Radley

                      I can’t with white cornmeal, unless it’s in some tamales.

                    • miss t-lee

                      Not even then.
                      Gotta be that yellow masa!!!

                  • Mochasister

                    Our cornbread was never sweet either. But I have heard that some people like it.

              • kneelbeforetigers

                Only sweet(ish) cornbread that gets a pass is a box of Jiffy.

                • miss t-lee

                  It gets a pass in a pinch, but I prefer scratch.

              • Cleojonz

                Cackling at “I’ll frisbee that sh*t” !!!

                • miss t-lee

                  I’m so serious. I’ve been known just to fling some food when it’s utter bullsh*t.

              • Yay Radley

                “I’ll frisbee that sh*t.” This just conjured up thee most hilarious image of an errant Thanksgiving dinner.

          • NonyaB

            Sour cream poundcake? Does it taste sweet or sour? Y’all dropping all these new thangs.

            • Sour cream makes it extra moist… you don’t taste it at all!!!

              • leesupreme

                you making me hungry.. pound cake with fresh whip cream makes my knees buckle.. i may have to get heavy in the kitchen this weekend.

                • Now why come you came with fresh whipped cream? Omg

                  • leesupreme

                    Jesus wept. I cant wait its happening this weekend. . I will find an unrelated post and post a picture LOL

            • miss t-lee

              It’s sweet. Just super dense and moist.
              The sour cream keeps it from getting dry.

            • Mochasister

              NonyaB, where are you from? No shade. I’m genuinely curious.

              • NonyaB

                Canuckia and Nigeria.

                • Mochasister

                  What kinds of foods are common in your culture?

                  • NonyaB

                    Ooh chile, we could be heyuh all day because my food “culture” is an amalgam of dishes from places I’ve been while growing up (practically erry continent but antartica). Canuckia is a land of immigrants and so is the food, with no “Canadian” cuisine, per se. Nigeria = various, depending on region of country. Some cross-regional/national gems tho: Jollof rice(!!!), suya (grilled meat with specific spice mix), pepper soup (featuring a meat type like ram/beef/fish/chicken), egusi stew, etc. Congratulations, you just made me hungry. *Flounces off*

                    • leesupreme

                      thank you! Africa infulenced the shiiiiizzzniyiiii out of caribbean food. Culture.

                    • Mochasister

                      Lol! Sawy! I’ve always wanted to try the Jollof rice. That pepper soup sounds good too.

                    • NonyaB

                      Never had Jollof?! If you know any Nigerians/W. Africans in your city, tell them to remedy that immediately by preparing it or taking you to recommended local African restaurants (which would have more dishes incl. pepper soup) if available.

          • tinycurls

            Caramel cake. The end.

            • Mochasister

              Yes, chile! My Grandma made the best caramel cake.

          • Mochasister

            Dang, I haven’t had a good pound cake in years. My paternal grandmother (mat she rest in peace.) used to make caramel cupcakes for us kids and coconut cake for my father. I miss my Grammie.

            • miss t-lee

              *hugs*

              • Mochasister

                Thanks. Both my grandmothers have been dead for a long time but I still miss them.

        • Jennifer

          Honey, I’ll give you my recipe for sock it to me. It’s not that hard to make.

          • That is so sweet! I would take it too, and pass it to someone in my family who actually bakes (def not me).

          • Kas

            Up or down thread you made mention of having a “lot” of white friends. What is the source of your recipe?

            • Jennifer

              My black a$$ granny

              • Black ayus granny tickled me so!! lol

              • Kas

                The prosecution requests the case be dismissed. This recipe is no forgery.

              • Mochasister

                Ok, we just wanted to be sure.

              • leesupreme

                upvote. lol

        • Sawyer were you named after a family member? Geez. I would love to name my daughter Sawyer. After Sawyerville, Alabama. I was named after my great-grandfather Andrew…from Sawyerville.

          • Kas

            So you are literally a Country Bama? :)

            • On my dad’s side. lol

          • Not quite named after any family members, no. But the world def needs more Sawyers, so… :)

      • Ham hocks. Nooooooo..lol

        • miss t-lee

          YES.

      • Jeremy

        Also, neck bones with white potatoes, spaghetti with ground beef, and sweet potato pie. Oh, and caramel cake for the holidays.

        • miss t-lee

          I can tell you good people mayne.

          • Nik White

            And what time is dinner again?

            • miss t-lee

              Hahah :)

    • Kas

      This!

      • And let’s not sleep on the bomb red and purple Kool aid

        • Mixing that with some cognac…everybody gets lit.

          • Uuumm I will take your word for it!

          • Mochasister

            Lol! Never heard of mixing Kool-aid with cognac before.

    • HouseOfBonnets

      Exactly, you gotta inherit that type of legacy.

      • kneelbeforetigers

        Again, TALK THIS. If you don’t have at least one cooking-ass grandma and/or auntie amongst your elders, do not attempt this at home.

    • Damon Young

      I definitely would give the jenkins family the nod in a full family street fight. the walkers and the alstons might come with some goons too, though

      • will_the_thrill

        This is the Blackest thing I’ve ever read. Both this article and this comment. Thank you, Damon Young, for saving Monday.

        • Adriennejsmith

          <<hp.. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????::::::!il433r:….,…..

      • True story.. my mami’s teen years bestie was named Traci (WITH AN I) Jenkins.. she had six kids with a dude named “Fudge” …and her daughter’s name was Brenda…. Brenda got into a fight with the girls around the block.. they jumped her but she still won. Traci went around the corner TO BEAT UP THE MAMA.. not talk to.. but whoop… Maaaaan, I ain’t NEVER known a parent to go fight the other parent because her kids jumped her daughter… She WHOOPED HER. I have heard stories of her and my mami’s shenanigans….

        Traci also asked my mami, point blank, in front of us if she wanted to smoke (weed). Apparently, my mami indulged in the “Good Earth”.

      • DoveLove

        Don’t mess with those Walkers. They’re crazy

      • LadyJay?

        Agree on the Walkers

      • thutch24

        real talk, my best friend from childhood is a Walker, and his whole family is known to throw them thangs…like frfr

      • PinkRose

        Yep, my bestie is a Walker too!!

      • Lameka Alston

        hahaha my friend told me about this article. you know what is strange. my husband is an alston and his mom is a walker. so, he has both blood lines in him. lol

    • MALynn

      Never had 7-up cake….what is this thing?

      • miss t-lee

        Because awesome.

        • MALynn

          sounds like the diabeetus in a pan…I hear wyfolks talk about a lemon 7-up/sprite cake..they related?

          • If white folks make it, don’t trust it!!!!

            • NonyaB

              LMAO.

            • Mochasister

              Girl. With they non seasoning selves!

              • B-Dot Willz

                I used to live with my 2520 friend who I definitely believe seasoned her food with hope and wishes. i mean her food just tasted like heat. as in literal warmth from being fully cooked.

                • Mochasister

                  I’ve often wondered why they tend not to season their food. Maybe it’s just a white American thing.

          • miss t-lee

            I ain’t never heard of that.
            7Up cake is legit though.

          • Jennifer

            Sprite cake? They might be the feds.

            • miss t-lee

              Definitely them alphabet folks.

            • Yay Radley

              I audibly cackled in this here work session. Oops.

      • TeeChantel

        It is a beautiful thing.

        • miss t-lee

          Tell her.

      • HouseOfBonnets

        Life.

      • OMG Yes!!! It is basically a moist pound cake with 7 up added… I need you to find somebody named Jenkins and get you a cake!!

        • Gina

          My mom was a Thomas, she could help her out. I grew up eating 7up cake but mom hasn’t made it in at least 25-30 years, and I wonder why? All church functions she or one of her sisters baked coconut, 7up, or caramel cakes.

        • MALynn

          Man… I guess I don’t see how you can just do 7up but not Coca-Cola or Fanta cake lol! Don’t mind me… We got rum cake back home so I ain’t even known why I’m bugging lol!

          • I’m Caribbean.. I know rum cake.. Mami makes a mean one. Now that’s uuugh… coca cola, Fanta I’m a cake? That’s wypipo.

          • Tambra

            December can’t come quick enough for black cake.

      • Yay Radley

        Sweet and fluffy baked deliciousness and sitting on my special stool next to my granny’s stove and feeling terribly self-important as I measured the soda to pour into the batter JUST SO and WHAT Y’ALL NOT GON’ DO IS MAKE MY CRY IN HERE.

        • Kas

          We cry a lot in here. It’s ok.

    • AshAlly08

      I have had 7Up Cake in a minute…. you got me craving.

      • Imbouta make one today!

        • Jeremy

          please send me some. i got five on it.

    • BJenks

      Yup! my folks fried chicken and mac n cheese are on another level. Taste so bomb I don’t really mind the clogged arteries that much.

      Also, stewed chicken be bangin’

      • I, TOTALLY, BELIEVE you!! Grandma Jenkins be giving peppermints away too! lol

    • NonyaB

      7up cake? #TIL

      • GenevaGirl

        OMG! I haven’t had that since I was a kid, not that I wanted to.

        • NonyaB

          My first time hearing of it.

    • Mochasister

      I always hear Jankins instead of Jenkins. We just had our family reunion but the food was not bomb. My cousins let their white wives and girlfriends fix the food. I was hot.

      • Nope… I would disown everybody.

        • Mochasister

          Don’t think I didn’t want to. Next year we’re going to Atlanta. My older cousin told me that will not be happening with the food there.

          • Amen, Cousin!

          • leesupreme

            double sorry. :(

            • Mochasister

              Not half as sorry as I was. One of the best parts of a Black American family reunion is the food. I look forward to it all year. Sigh. I guess their hearts were in the right place.

              • leesupreme

                But their seasoning hands werent.. Jesus wept.

                • Mochasister

                  What seasoning hands?! Lol! And I wept right along with Jesus! I swear if I weren’t trying to live right I would have cut my cousins in the eyelids! SMDH.

      • Nik White

        I’m so sorry.

        • Mochasister

          Thank you for acknowledging my pain!

    • chocolynne

      Jenkins. Miss Jenkins, Bubba Jenkins, Peaches Jenkins, and Puddin-toe Jenkins are all going to the Jenkins family reunion. You will never convince me of the possibility of seeing a whole bunch of white folks standing around underneath a “Jenkins Family Reunion Picnic” banner pinned up in the forest preserve.

      • I just died!!! lmao You KNOW there’sm a Jenkins named Peaches and she is somebody’s Newport-smoking auntie!

        • Mochasister

          Why do a lot of Black people smoke Newports?

          • Because Kools are hard to find..lol

            • Mochasister

              You crazy!

  • HouseOfBonnets

    HA HA! Hood shenanigans on a Monday afternoon, let me pull up a seat…..

    Also i vote Jenkins for obvious reasons I mean the sound alone.

  • Brandon Allen

    Not the most common but these may be the “least white” last names I can think of: Covington, Roberson, Braithwaite…any think with an seemingly unnecessary “r” in it or “s” on the end.

    • Jennifer

      See, the only Covingtons and Braithwaites I know are white people. I think this just proves that I know a lot of white people. I’ll stand down…

    • Val

      I just want to know what’s the deal with the last name, “Higginbotham”. All of the
      Higginbothams I know or have heard of are Black.

      • Brandon Allen

        I didn’t know Higginbotham was even a thing. Sounds straight out of Lord of The Rings.

      • Yo… that’s mad whimsical. I need to marry into this family, foreal.

        • Val

          Sawyer Higginbotham. Yep, that sounds distinguished.

          • omg Yesss, please introduce me, Val lol.

      • Nik White

        Yeah me too.

      • Cheech

        I used to work with a white Higginbotham. His first name was Jere but we called him Honeymoon.

      • Cheech

        There are a bunch of Judge Higginbothams. Leon and Paul are Black. Patrick and Toni are WHITE.

    • The FunkyFunky Child

      Braithwaite is pretty black, of the lightskin variety

      • Nik White

        Braithwaite sounds West Indian.

        • Duva

          Yup. I associate Braithwaite with the eastern engkish speaking Caribbean like Antigua, Anguilla, or VI. Just like Jamaican women with hyphenated first names.

          • Tambra

            Bajan.

            • Duva

              True indeed. One thing I do find interesting is the differentiation between names in the English speaking Caribbean compared to the US, even where both places conceivably could have had plantations owned by whites from the same English stock.

              • Tambra

                True.

    • Yay. I was mentioned!

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