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Why Do So Many Black Americans Carry The ‘Bey’ Last Name? 3 Things To Know

Why Do So Many Black Americans Carry The ‘Bey’ Last Name? 3 Things To Know

Black Americans

Why Do So Many Black Americans Carry The 'Bey' Last Name? 3 Things To Know. Photo by Rui Silvestre on Unsplash

There are many Black Americans with the last name ‘Bey’ – including many who are prominent and outspoken about racial pride. So what is it that makes the Bey surname so popular? And why do many ‘Beys’ seem to exude Black pride? Here are 3 things to know about why so many Black Americans carry the ‘Bey’ last name.

1. The Bey last name was adopted by Black people who practice Islam to demonstrate their belief that they were of Moor ancestry.

According to historical records from the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA), which was a precursor to the Nation of Islam, they believed Black Americans were “of Moor ancestry and should return to Islam.” In so doing, “members of the organization added “Ali,” “El,” and “Bey” to their surnames as an indication of their Moor identity,” according to the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.

2. The Bey last name is common among Black Americans with racial pride, some of whom are very prominent for their work in uplifting the Black race through their various talents and expertise.

Many Black Americans who have the Bey last name are known for their racial pride and activism. Among them are prominent individuals whose work is infused with such themes.

For example, born David Dmikle, renowned photographer Dawoud Bey changed his name to reflect the popular surname. Dawoud Bey is known for capturing Black Americans in everyday life.


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“I wanted to show people living their lives,” Bey told the New York Times. “But first I had to learn how to insert myself into their social space and make it seem natural.” 

Other prominent Black American Beys, both living and deceased, include: American jazz musician Andy Bey; hip-hop MC Yasiin Bey, more popularly known as Mos Def; Muslim activist Yusef Bey; visual artist April Bey, whose work heavily denotes contemporary Black female rhetoric; NBA players Saddiq Bey, Tyler Bey and more.

3. Some Beys consider themselves sovereign citizens exempt from American laws and customs.

There is a growing movement among Black Americans that believe they are “sovereign citizens” whose rights supersede America’s laws and customs because they believe they were the country’s original inhabitants.

One example occurred in 2013 when Terrence Rollins-Bey, on trial for murder, challenged the judge in his case saying, “With respect to your honor, I object to everything you’re saying,” the Baltimore Sun reported.

According to Rollins-Bey and others, America’s justice system is powerless over them due to a 1787 treaty with Morocco exempts them from American laws. “I am a natural living soul,” Rollins-Bey told the judge per the Sun’s report, asking later, “Is there a claim against me?”