I’ve followed several conversations on parents’ forums about whether Jerome is a typically African American first name.
Instead of using my personal experiences and people I know, I reviewed the available public data to figure this out.
Census data shows that Jerome was a very rare name in the United States in the early twentieth century.
Although more recent census data isn’t publicly available, one financial study suggests that it was still uncommon in the 1960s and early 1970s.
However, my review of recent high school yearbooks shows that the name has become far more common.
But is Jerome an exclusively African American name? Read on…
Is Jerome An African American First Name Currently?
Several archives have collected thousands of high school yearbooks from the early 1900s up to 2016.
I narrowed my search to three southern states with a significant black population.
I used the available yearbooks for Georgia and Louisiana from 2011 to 2016. Because Mississippi is less populated, I extended the timeframe for that state to start in 2006.
The table below is the summary of my review. The column headed “Jerome” was the total number of kids with the name that I found across the schools with uploaded yearbooks.
One of the black students was a girl. It’s possible that the wrong picture was assigned to the name. But that doesn’t change the black percentage.
Based on these yearbooks, Jerome isn’t an exclusively African American name in recent years. However there is a very high percentage of black students with the name.
The two young white students with the name in each of Georgia and Louisiana.
My conclusion is that Jerome is a typically African American male name in the 21st century.
What about New Hampshire?
I then checked for Jerome in a state with a low black population.
I searched the New Hampshire yearbooks from 2004 to 2016 for anyone named Jerome. There was a total of two boys named Jerome. Both were white.
In contrast, there were over 844 results when I searched for students named John!
Explaining the table
Of course, there are more than thirteen schools in Louisiana (there are 558 to be exact). But many schools don’t have yearbooks available online.
The second column in the table shows the number of schools that came up in the results when I searched for the name Jerome.
If you’re wondering why there were more schools than students in the case of Georgia, I couldn’t identify a student in the associated photograph in the results.
There were also plenty of schools that didn’t have anyone with the name in that recent period.
The “Jerome” column is the total number of students named Jerome that appear in the yearbooks in that state.
The last column shows the percentage that I judged to be African American.
The challenge of using high school photos
If you’ve looked at historic census records in the U.S., you’ll know that ethnicity is one of the questions that people are asked.
This means that the census archives can be searched by ethnicity as well as specific names. However, I could only search the high school yearbooks by student names and school locations.
So, how did I identify African Americans from people of other heritage?
Well, the recent high school yearbooks have photographs of the students. I did it by eye.
I’m not going to be right with every pick. So, treat these numbers as an estimate.
Jerome Was More Of A White First Name In The 1960s and Early 1970s
A research study used mortgage applications from 2007 to identify the breakdown of first names by ethnicity.
We can guess that most of the applicants were aged from thirty to fifty. So, the numbers represent people born in the 1960s and early 1970s.
There were 1,220 people named Jerome who applied for a mortgage. This was the ethnic breakdown:
- White: 83%
- Black: 13%
- Asian or Pacific Islands: 3%
- Hispanic: 2%
So, the black percentage is quite low.
I also took a look at a similar name starting with J. The name Jermaine was 88% black! However, there were only sixty-nine people in total with that name.
My conclusion is that Jerome was not a typically African American name in the 1960s and 1970s.
Was Jerome A Black Name In The 19th And Early 20th Century?
To review whether Jerome was a popular first name in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I looked at several federal censuses.
The first survey after the Civil War and the freeing of slaves was taken in 1870. This was the first time that all African Americans were counted in the census.
There were 10,100 people named Jerome in the 1870 census. Only three percent were black.
The total number had grown to 14,722 residents in the 1900 census. The black percentage had doubled to six percent.
By 1940, the total had increased significantly to nearly sixty-three thousand. The black percentage held at six percent
My conclusion is that Jerome was not a black name in older eras.
Most Famous African American With Jerome As A First Name
Who is the most famous?
Military history buffs might point to Jerome Edwards of the Tuskegee Airmen.
You might be thinking of Jerome Woods of the Kansas City Chiefs. Before Woods, there was Jerome Barkum of the New York Jets.
But I’m going to go with a Jerome who was a great college footballer (and college Hall of Famer) but made his mark in education and public service.
Jerome Holland (1916-1985) was born in New York and attended college at Cornell University.
Jerome was both an excellent scholar and an excellent footballer.
His college achievements weren’t just being an All-American in 1937 and ’38. He was the first black student to play for Cornell.
Holland went on to be president of both Delaware State College and the Hampton Institute.
He served as ambassador to Sweden in the early 1970s. President Carter appointed him as chairman of the Red Cross in 1979.
Jerome is one of those names with the emphasis on the second syllable.
Tyrone is another. Check out our investigation of whether Tyrone is a typically African American first name.