In Season 5, Episode 9 of The Wire, Marlo Stanfield (played by Jamie Hector), Baltimore’s reigning kingpin, announces to his associate Chris Partlow (played by Gbenga Akinnagbe) that “my name is my name.” Marlo, Chris, Monk, and Cheese were discussing who might have talked to the police and got them locked up when the subject of Omar came up. Monk, played by Kwame Patterson, mentioned off-handedly that Omar was running his mouth about Marlo in the street, at which point Marlo became extremely angry, exhibiting his first display of intense emotion in the series. “Omar said what?” Marlo asked. “Nothing, Omar tried calling you out by name but it wasn’t nothing,” Chris replied. “What did he say about me?” “Nothing man, just talking shit” “He used my name, in the street?” Monk noted that Omar “just said that you needed to step to and that…I don’t know, he just running his mouth.” Chris said that Marlo had a lot on his plate and did not need to worry about something as small as that. “What the fuck you know about what I need on my mind?” Marlo thundered. “My name was on the street? When we bounce from this shit here, y’all go down on them corners, and let them people know word did not get back to me. Let ’em know Marlo step to any motherfucker, Omar, Barksdale, whoever. My name is my name!”
For Marlo, protecting his reputation and his honor is essential to his control of the streets. This is why he deems it so important that people understand he had no idea that Omar had called him out by name. If anyone does think that he would let something like that slide, they may get it into their heads to rob him or try and murder him. As big as his crew is, there is no way he could fend off all people who may wish him harm except through the power of fear. Thus, it was essential that people know he would step to any challengers to protect his reputation.
Notions of honor appear in other parts of The Wire as well. In Season 3, Episode 11, Brother Mouzone, a hired hit man played by Michael Potts, met Avon Barksdale in a barbershop and noted that Avon had contracted his services to drive off a rival gang, but that one of Avon’s crew, Stringer Bell, had tried to have Brother Mouzone killed. Avon asks Brother Mouzone if he wants money, saying “it’s business.” Brother Mouzone replies “business is where you are now, but what got you here is your word and your reputation. With that alone you still have a line to New York, without it, you’re done.” Just like Marlo, Avon’s success on the streets owed to his ruthlessness, willingness to use violence, but also to his honor, within the context of street culture. If Avon cannot control his employees and keep his word, he will no longer have a drug supply in New York and will certainly lose what he has worked for over the years. He thus makes the difficult decision to let Brother Mouzone kill his partner Stringer Bell, restoring honor to himself and his organization.
The refusal of Avon and Marlo to be dishonored is a tradition in black culture with roots in antebellum America. While scholars such as Mechal Sobel, Albert Raboteau, and others have delineated the importance of Christianity among slaves, many, if not most slaves, rejected Christianity and adhered to African traditions, Islam, atheism for some, and the culture of honor for others. Honor became something of a stand-in for religious beliefs and while it was adapted from white southern notions of honor, it was also fitted to the slave experience. For example, the unwillingness of slaves to be dishonored by other slaves and their need to seek vengeance upon those who wronged them was a clear appropriation of the white southern culture of honor. But for slaves, loyalty to the slave community became a critical, if not the central, piece in their code of honor. Stealing from whites was seen as acceptable and not even thought of as stealing, but stealing from other slaves was taboo. As Henry Bibb noted in his autobiography when accused of stealing by his former master, “a slave has a moral right to eat drink and wear all that he needs, and that it would be a sin on his part to suffer and starve in a country where there is a plenty to eat and wear within his reach. I consider that I had a just right to what I took, because it was the labor of my own hands”. Along similar lines, lying to whites was something that was necessary to survive, but slaves were expected to be honest in their dealings with each other.
The aspects of the culture of honor that involved revenge for slights and violence was strongest among young men and women in the slave community. By the time they reached middle age, many slaves would have jettisoned these notions of honor, as was the case with Fields Cook. Cook was enslaved on a Virginia plantation from the 1810s to the Civil War, and while he strongly embraced notions of honor in his youth, by his mid-30s he became a Baptist preacher.
If we were able to follow the lives of Marlo and Avon into middle age, we would likely see a waning of notions of honor, especially the intense need to protect their reputations, although perhaps not an embrace of evangelical Christianity like Fields Cook. Indeed, in Season 4, one of Avon’s top soldiers, Wee-Bey Brice, rejects street culture and notions of honor that he had lived by for years, allowing his son to be adopted by a former police major, Bunny Colvin. Colvin thought Wee-Bey’s son was intelligent and should have a chance to get an education. Wee-Bey’s wife De’Londa disagreed, arguing he should be a soldier just like his father. Wee-Bey replied “well look at me up in here, who the fuck would want to be that if they could do anything else De’Londa?” Wee-Bey’s reassessment of his life choices after years in prison shows the close tie between youth and the culture of honor, a culture with deep roots in African American history.
 Daniel Fountain’s recent book argues that during the antebellum period most slaves rejected Christianity and that blacks would not embrace the religion en masse until after the Civil War. See his Slavery, Civil War, and Salvation: African American Slaves and Christianity, 1830-1870 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010).
 Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave, Written by Himself (New York: 1849), 195.
 Fields’s Observations: The Slave Narrative of a Nineteenth Century Virginian Mary J. Bratton, ed. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/fields/fields.html Accessed 3 August 2014. For culture of honor among Virginia slaves see John C. Willis, “From the Dictates of Pride to the Paths of Righteousness: Slave Honor and Christianity in Antebellum Virginia” in Edward L. Ayers and John C. Willis, eds. The Edge of the South: Life in Nineteenth-Century Virginia (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1991), 37-49.