A derisive term, coined, probably, by the original Nation of Islam (the "Black Muslims") to denote the fact that many black Americans didn't have the luxury of preserving their ancestral names - their surnames had been adopted or given to them in (or after) the era of slavery. One chose a new name to remove the taint. NOI examples: Louis Farrakhan was once Louis X (original surname: Walcott); Malcolm X was Malcolm Little. "X" was an angry "?".

Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali upon joining the Nation of Islam. The concept moved beyond the NOI to the general 60s Afrocentric foment. Ronald Everett became Maulana Karenga, inventor of Kwanzaa. Poet LeRoi Jones renamed himself Imamu Amiri Baraka, later ditching the honorific "Imamu" upon becoming a Marxist (after all, an honorific other than the trad "brother"/"sister"/"comrade" variety would be politically incorrect). Stokely Carmichael moved to Guinea and became Kwame Ture, in honor of two mentors: Guinean leader Sekou Touré and exiled Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah.

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