I’ve seen several debates on social media about whether Tyrone is a typically African American first name.
Their replies are usually based on the people they know by that name. This review tries to be more objective.
I combed through recent high school yearbooks to find that Tyrone is highly likely to belong to African American students (you may be shocked by the percentage!).
Going back to people born in the 1960s and 70s, financial studies estimate that sixty percent of those named Tyrone were African American.
Historic census records show that Tyrone was less common in black families in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Read on for the details!
Is Tyrone An African American First Name Currently?
You may not know that your high school yearbook could be online. Several archives have collected tens of thousands of yearbooks from the early 1900s up to 2016.
I narrowed my search to three southern states with a significant black population and combed through yearbooks from about 2014.
This table is the summary of my review. The column headed “Tyrone” was the total number of kids with the name that I found across the schools with uploaded yearbooks.
As you can see, Tyrone was an exclusively African American name based on these yearbooks.
In case you’re wondering, these southern schools aren’t exclusively black. The photos show a diverse mix of heritage.
How about New Hampshire?
I then checked for Tyrone in a state with a low black population.
Due to my father’s work, I attended middle school for one year in New Hampshire in the 1980s. There was one other black kid in 8th grade. Have things changed since then?
I searched the New Hampshire yearbooks from 2007 to 2016 for anyone named Tyrone. There wasn’t a single school photo.
In contrast, there were nearly five hundred students named John!
Explaining the table
You may have some questions about the numbers in the table above.
Of course, there are more than eight schools in Louisiana (there are 558 to be exact).
I’ve simply listed the number of schools where I found at least one kid with Tyrone as his first name. There were plenty of schools that didn’t have anyone with the name in that recent period.
The “Tyrone” column is the total number of students named Tyrone that appear in the yearbooks in that state.
The last column shows the percentage that I believed 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.
Was Tyrone A Popular Black Name In The 1960s and 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 in their thirties and forties. So, the numbers represent people born in the 1960s and 1970s.
This was the breakdown for those with the first name of Tyrone:
- Black: 60%
- White: 32%
- Asian: 4%
- Hispanic: 4%
As you can see, Tyrone was mostly a black name in this data.
Was Tyrone A Black Name In The 19th And Early 20th Century?
To review whether Tyrone was a popular first name in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I looked at several federal censuses.
The first survey after the end of the Civil War and the freeing of slaves was taken in 1870. This was the first time that all African Americans were counted.
The census-takers recorded people as white, black, or mixed. There were only six black or mixed people named Tyrone in the 1870 census.
But that was out of a total of twelve Tyrones that year. So, the black contingent represented fifty percent.
Out of curiosity, I took a look at the non-black Tyrones. I wasn’t surprised to see surnames like Boyd and Caughlan. Those are very Irish last names.
The 1900 and 1940 censuses didn’t have the “mixed” category that was in other censuses. So, I only needed to review the black numbers versus the total population.
The number of black Tyrones had dropped to four in 1900. That was out of a total of thirty-six total residents. This makes the black percentage about 11%.
Again, a quick review shows that there are plenty of Irish and Scottish surnames in that census. It looks like immigration from Ireland and Britain was driving up the numbers.
The total number had risen to 729 people by 1940. About 35% were African American.
My conclusion is that Tyrone was not a particularly black name in older eras.
Famous African Americans Named Tyrone
People point to an film star named Tyrone Power in the 1930s and 40s to explain why the first name became popular in America.
But I doubt that this early Zorro was the cause for the rise of the name in black communities.
Some African American parents may have been fans of Tyrone Davis, the blues singer whose heyday was in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Other parents may have been impressed by the exploits of a Tyrone in professional sport.
Tyrone Keys won his Super Bowl title with the Chicago Bears in 1986. Tyrone Braxton won two championship rings with the Broncos.
Early Origins Of Tyrone As A First Name
The name Tyrone doesn’t have African origins. The early origins are either Irish or French.
There is a county named Tyrone in Northern Ireland. The meaning comes from the Gaelic words for “the land of Owen”. Early bearers may have come from this area.
The French origins possibly come from names like Terrien or Terrin. The meaning comes from the French word for the earth (terre). The name arrived in Britain in the Middle Ages.
What About Other Names?
When I was looking through the school yearbooks, I also spotted kids using the two-letter name Ty.
Isn’t that just short for Tyrone? Not necessarily. It can be short for other names e.g. Tyrell or Terrell. We’ve also taken a look at whether Terrell is a typically black first name.
But Ty can also be a name in its own right. Check out our review of whether Ty is an African American name.
Tyrone is one of those names with the emphasis on the second syllable. Jerome is another. We’ve also looked at whether Jerome is a typically African American first name.