"What's in a name?" Part I

November 18, 2013

In this series of blogs, Isaac Cosby Hunt, III – Inspired Teaching’s Manager of Teaching and Learning – will explore his family history by tracing the origins of his two sons’ names. Cosby’s sons – a first grade Lightning Lion and a preK Elephant – attend the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School.

Gratitude & Aspiration

In my recent rush to visit a middle school, I grabbed one of my old composition notebooks so that I could take notes from the back of the classroom. Later that day, I leafed through the earlier pages of the book, which one of my students had given me for Christmas in 2006. I was delighted to discover that this was the notebook in which I had brainstormed and jotted down possible names for my first son.

Robeson was high on my original list of names. My attempts to sell my wife, Michelle, on that name included taking her to a one-man play about Paul Robeson. It made for a nice date, but her position never wavered: “sounds too much like cough syrup.” As I look further down the list, I see both Pharaoh and Moses. Had we had been blessed with a girl, I see that Emancipa (!) was one of my choices.

I came up with a lot of possibilities, but only one name said it all. And on August 23, 2007, Michelle and I welcomed Freeman Clarence Hunt into the world.


Freeman. Finding that old notebook sent me to another book, which may have planted the seed for my son’s first name: Gary B. Nash’s 1988 book, Forging Freedom. On page 84, I found the words I had underlined some 20-odd years ago:

A few freed Afro-Americans used the choice of a new name to make unmistakably clear the transition from slavery to freedom. Freemans and Newmans, who wore their names like advertisements, are scattered through the church, census, and tax records.

Freeman, then, is a name of both gratitude and aspiration – gratitude for those who came before us and aspiration for the future.

Clarence: Clarence Sinkgraven, Freeman’s maternal great-grandfather, was a Dutch farmer, a Christian whose moral convictions (and an unfortunate gunfight on his land that left two German soldiers dead) earned him a visit from the Nazis during World War II. When the Germans descended on his family farm to take Clarence away, they were unable to do so because they couldn’t find him – both because he wasn’t home at the time and because he had disguised himself as a woman. Instead, the soldiers took his wife, Susan, who somehow survived her captivity and to this day, well into her 90’s, will not speak of those six months. You can find the name Sinkgraven at the Holocaust Museum on a plaque honoring those gentiles who harbored Jews during the war. My son’s middle name honors these ancestors for their incredible strength.

Hunt. My father’s people come from the Carolinas, and before then, alas, we’re not sure. We’re also not sure what allowed Isaac Cosby Hunt, Sr. – a janitor at a white bank in Danville, Virginia – the opportunity to buy 87 acres of land in Caswell County, North Carolina during the height of Jim Crow America. But I am grateful I recently had the opportunity to take Freeman and his brother to that land for the first time to see our roots and what my father’s father worked to build for our family.

It’s fitting that Freeman Clarence Hunt has found a second home at the Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School, an institution with a name as purposeful and planned as his. The school’s name is also one of gratitude and aspiration – gratitude for the Instigators of Thought who inspire their students and aspiration to bring this type of inquiry-based education to students across the city (and beyond). I look forward to being part of the future that Freeman and all his classmates will be able to build on top of the history that supports them.

Until next time – stay tuned for the story of Ellington Ebenezer Hunt!

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One response to ““What’s in a name?” Part I”

  1. Anthony Brown says:

    Hello Cosby, This is Anthony Brown. We coached tennis and taught in Sparta GA. I ran into one of your former students in Macon GA. Rev. Darryl McClain. He could not stop talking about you and how you impacted his life with your history lessons and your work ethic. Give me a call or email me when you get some free time.

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