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After going away to college, Dee creates a new life for herself and tries to create a new personal identity. She changes her name in an attempt to identify with her African heritage and to leave behind the life into which she had been born. She rejects her own heritage as a black American and her mother's daughter.
Dee's behavior reflects the social movement of the 1960s and 1970s in which the ideas of "black pride" or Black Nationalism, developed from the struggle for civil rights, were adopted by some Americans of African descent. Malcom X, one influential leader in the African-American community, encouraged his followers to abandon their "slave names," in favor of African names that reflected pride in their heritage. This theme is also found in A Raisin in the Sun through the character of Beneatha.
Dee's name change is a great example of irony in this story. The reason that Dee gives for changing her name is that she doesn't want to go by her "slave name." She chooses an African name to better represents her family heritage. Of course, in doing this she actually separates herself from her family heritage (Dee was, in fact, a family name).
E-notes has some great resources on this story.
Dee explains the change of her name to the Swahili-Black Muslim "Wangero" because she is persuaded that the name "Dee" was given to her by white oppressors (paragraph 27). This change provides her with a new sense of identity, and it also gives her a sense of her tradition. Dee’s limitation is that she sees this tradition not as something alive but rather as a collective set of artifacts. She therefore regards the house as something to be photographed, and she thinks of the house’s objects as aesthetic centerpieces or wall hangings—which to her are to be viewed but never to be put to "everyday use."
Dee has changed her name into the African Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, because her old name "Dee" reminded her of her white colonial masters. Outwardly her reason for changing her name might be politically correct but its certainly not culturally correct. Her entire past is negated because of this name change. Dee's mother traces the family history of that name saying, "though, in fact, I probably could have carried it back beyond the Civil War through the branches." Maggie, however, never changes her name and she treasures the quilt not as a mere showpiece but as a treasure trove of the collected memories - both painful and pleasant - of the cultural past of her ancestors.
Dee only thinks that they have to change her "slave name."However, she never thinks of the problem that when she changes her name, she also ruins their heritage.
Dee changes her name because she wants to be more involved with carring out her culters beliefs. She wants her african culture to be part of her every day life!
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