There were 130,000 black Americans with Allen as their last name in the 2010 U.S. census. This was 26% of the total number with that name in the country.
This article looks at:
- 19th and early 20th-century numbers for the name
- notable historical people named Allen
- early military records and how to find them
Allen Before The Civil War
The 1850 census was the first to record all free members of households together. Before this, people who weren’t white were not named in the federal census.
In 1850, there was a box to enter “color” on the census. It was left blank to denote white, “b” for black, or “m” for “mulatto”. The third term is the language of the time. I will use “mixed” in the rest of this article.
If you are researching your black Allen ancestors in census archives, be sure to search under both categories. Don’t rely on the census taker making the right choice at the time.
1850 Federal Census
There were 1,145 people named Allen who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 428 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, these are free citizens.
There was a total of 57,784 free citizens named Allen that year.
1860 Federal Census
The 1860 federal census recorded 1,009 people as black, and 611 as mixed.
This is out of a total of 69,459 free citizens.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. At last, all African Americans are included.
Those who were omitted in 1860 because they were enslaved are now in this census. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
15,657 people named Allen were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 2,602 as mixed.
The increase from the previous census is clear. The overall total (all Americans) was 121,625.
The 1880 census recorded 21,181 as black and 3,850 as mixed out of a total of 121,625.
Let’s jump to the end of the 19th century…or the beginning of the 20th.
Allen In The 1900 And 1940 Census
In 1900, the mixed category was dropped. However, not all enumerators followed those instructions. I’ve found a small number of records where “m” was still used in the box for color.
I’ll focus here on the black numbers.
The 1900 census recorded 34,413 people named Allen as black within a total of 166,645.
There were 56,013 people named Allen recorded as black in the 1940 census out of a total of 256,442.
Historic Black Figures
Here are some notable African Americans in history with the last name of Allen.
- Born: 1760
- Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Died: 1831
Richard Allen attended a gathering in 1777 in which a traveling Methodist preacher spoke. He had a profound religious awakening.
During the Revolutionary War, he drove a salt wagon and preached to the different communities his work brought him to.
Allen bought his freedom in 1780 and co-founded the Bethel Church. He would later found the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
As well as a place of prayer, Allen used the church to hide runaway slaves as part of the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad was a vast network of secret routes and safe houses organized by many abolitionists and rights activists. It helped thousands of enslaved people escape from the South.
This image is an excerpt from a photo available at the Library of Congress archive:
When Allen encountered the wife of a preacher who also wanted to preach, he at first discouraged her. Yet he was so impressed when he heard the lady speak at church, that he changed his mind. You can read more in our bio of Jarena Lee, the first black woman to publish her autobiography.
Macon Bolling Allen
When Macon Allen achieved his license to practice law in Maine in 1844, he became the first African American lawyer in history.
He had difficulties getting clients in Maine and Massachusetts, but passed the qualifying exam to become a Justice of the Peace.
When he moved to South Carolina, he opened a law firm with two black colleagues, Robert Elliott and William Whipper. He was elected as a judge of Charleston County Criminal Court in 1873.
Sidenote: Macon was born Allen Macon Bolling but changed his name in the 1840s.
JT Allen settled in 1893 in Newport, Rhode Island. He and his brother started a catering business and opened one of the finest restaurants in Newport.
He was elected President of the Newport Business League and owned several properties in the region.
This notice appeared in an 1908 edition of the Newport Daily News when JT Allen purchased a hotel at auction.
Carter’s Inn, better known by its old name of Prospect House, a small hotel on Greene lane, which has not been open the past season, was sold today at public auction.
It was struck off to Mr. J. T. Allen of Newport for $5,000.Newport Daily News, September 4 1908
Other successful African Americans in business
Here are some highly successful black entrepreneurs and business people from the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Sally Campbell of the Black Hills
- Annie Fisher of Missouri
- Hermann Russell of Atlanta
- Madam C J Walker of Louisiana
Marcus LeMarr Allen
- Born: 1960
- Birthplace: San Diego, California
When Marcus Allen retired from the NFL in 1997, he had become one of the greatest running backs in history.
He was awarded the Heisman Trophy as a key part of the University of South Carolina winning the NCAA title.
When he joined the Los Angeles Raiders in 1982, he was awarded the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was the NFL MVP the next year.
His greatest season was in 1984 when he was the Super Bowl MVP in the Raiders title win.
If you’re curious about the other part of his name, check out our article on whether Marcus is a typically African American first name.
Black Military Records
You may be surprised at the amount of genealogy information available from military records. Here are some examples of the Allen surname.
Five regiments for black soldiers were formed during the Civil War. They were known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
Their records are part of the national archive of military monthly returns. The information includes the year and place of birth, where they enlisted, their occupation, and their height.
The earliest entry for an Allen was in 1866. H F Allen was a private with the Tenth Cavalry Regiment.
The last entry was in 1915. John Allen was a Sergeant in the Ninth Cavalry Regiment.
Civil War Sailors
The National Parks Service has a free archive of African American sailors during the Civil War.
The information includes their age, height, rank, occupation, and where and when they enlisted. It also includes every ship that they served on.
You can search the database on the Parks website.
One of the earliest entries for an Allen concerned John Allen from Wilmington, Delaware. He enlisted in 1861 aged 25.
One of the later entries was for Eliha Allen of Franklin, Louisiana. He enlisted in 1865 aged 15.
The Tuskegee Airmen were military personnel who served at the Tuskegee Army Airfield or related programs.
Nearly one thousand black pilots graduated from the Tuskegee Institute. They flew single-engine fighter planes or twin-engine bombers. 352 fought in combat.
Walter Allen graduated as a flight officer on 28 December 1944. He qualified as a bomber pilot. Walter was from Kansas City, Kansas.
Clarence Allen graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant on 25 March 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Clarence was from Mobile, Alabama. His combat credits said:
Downed 1/2 Fw-190 on January 27, 1044.