About Me, Biography, Testimonials

My Surname

On the radio they are talking about the Census and taking calls from people on the topic: “What my name means to me.”

My surname is Howard, but if my grandfathers had followed convention my surname would be Holmgren. Back in the day the man who carried my Y chromosome married a woman whose surname was Howard, and he took her name for his own to avoid discrimination against dumb Swedes.

I have sometimes wondered about changing the name back to Holmgren, but it hardly seems worth the effort. There is no widespread anti-Swedish prejudice to stand up against in solidarity, and I have no special allegiance to patriarchy.

It seems that most Howards I meet are African American. I doubt they took that surname by marrying English. As best I can guess, their ancestors took their surname, as Howard University did, from Major General Oliver Howard, who fought in the Civil War, and later promoted the welfare of former slaves and war refugees as Commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Perhaps there is even a little solidarity to be had in retaining a surname chosen by people who, to this very day, face discrimination.

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Categories: About Me, Biography, Testimonials