StampPaid and BabySuggs named themselves. What is the significance of this, and what does it say about these characters?

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cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That these two have selected their own names reveals their independence and their rebellion against slavery. Slaves typically were named by those who owned them, not by their own parents. Stamp Paid notes that "They called me Joshua"; Baby Suggs' original slave name was Jenny Whitlow. All of the Pauls who work for the Garners are other examples; they are distinguished only by a middle initial. Sethe's name is apparently an exception because she was named by her mother for the man who was her father, Seth; likewise, Sethe names her own children.

Stamp Paid and Baby Suggs, however, belong to an older generation of slaves brought from Africa. For different reasons, these two unusually strong characters are able to leave slavery behind to begin new lives with new names. Stamp's name is one he chose to convey his belief that he has paid his dues to the white man through the suffering he endured when his wife was taken by the master's son; his "bill" can be stamped "paid." Stamps says he owes nothing to anyone. Baby Suggs selected her name because of her "husband"--whether the union is recognized by whites is irrelevant to her. Both characters refuse any longer to accept identities imposed on them by whites.