The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 24,502 black Americans with Alston as their last name. That represented 80% of the total of 30,693 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Alston.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1850 and 1860, only free African Americans were recorded in the census. The many enslaved were omitted.
From 1870 onward, all black Americans were included.
2,978 people named Alston were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 243 as mixed.
There was a total of 4,169 people with the name.
Alston In The 1900 And 1940 Census
The mixed category was dropped from the census in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.
The 1900 census recorded 5,654 people with the last name Alston as black within a total of 7,111 that year.
By the way, the mixed category returned in the 1910 and 1920 censuses. It was dropped again in 1930, but replaced with extra categories for colored and non-white in a way that seems confusing now.
This changed again in 1940 and we can simply focus on one black category.
The 1940 census recorded 7,044 people named Alston as black within a total of 9,648.
Historic Black Figures With The Alston Surname
Here is a notable African American in history with Alston as their last name.
- Born: 1907
- From: Charlotte, North Carolina
- Died: 1977
The Harlem Renaissance after the First World War was a period when African American art, literature, and music flourished around Harlem.
Painters, poets, writers, and musicians established a creative hub of black culture in the United States. The movement was hugely influential on the development of black literature and art through the twentieth century and today.
Charles Alston was a renowned illustrator, painter, and sculptor. He spent his early professional years illustrating for magazines like the New York. He also designed album covers for artists like Duke Ellington.
His bronze bust of Dr. Martin Luther King is in the President’s Oval Office.
Alston In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Alston surname from different military services:
- Buffalo soldiers
- Black civil war sailors
- Tuskegee airmen
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.
One of the earliest military entries for Alston was in February 1880. Benjamin Alston was a Sergeant in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry. He was stationed in February 1880 at Potomac Park, Washington.
Another entry was in August 1904. Robert Alston was a Corporal in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry.
You have to create an account on either website, but you do not need to pay for the Buffalo Soldiers archive.
Black 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 National Parks website.
One of the earliest entries for Alston was for Peter Alston from Santee, South Carolina. He enlisted in July 1863 at Port Royal when he was aged 28.
The record shows that Peter was assigned on April 1864 to the ship Conemaugh.
His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Potomac in February 1865. Wallace was aged 34 and was from Westmoreland, Virginia.
He was assigned to the ship Mackinaw on April 1867.
His naval rank was 1st Class Fireman.
Firemen in the Navy worked in the engine room and with other machinery.
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.
William Alston graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in November 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. William was from Huntington, West Virginia.