The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 60,588 black Americans with Baker as their last name. That represented 14% of the total of 419,586 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Baker in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Baker Before The Civil War
The 1850 census was the first to record all free members of households together. Before this, people who were not white were not named in the federal census.
In 1850, there was a box to enter color on the census. There were three categories: white, black, and mulatto. The third term is the language of the time, and I will use mixed in this article.
If you are researching your black Baker ancestors in census archives, be sure to check the two non-white categories. Do not assume that the people recording the information were always correct.
1850 Federal Census
There were 520 people named Baker who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 215 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 52,204 free citizens named Baker that year. There would be one more census in 1860 before the Civil War.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. All African Americans were included.
Those who were omitted in 1850 and 1860 because they were enslaved were now recorded.
8,207 people named Baker were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,148 as mixed.
There was a total of 91,467 people with the name.
Baker In The 1900 And 1940 Census
The mixed category was dropped in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.
The 1900 census recorded 16,719 people with the last name Baker as black within a total of 149,880 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 23,632 people named Baker as black within a total of 237,699.
Historic Black Figures With The Baker Surname
Here are some notable African American people in history.
- Born: 1848
- From: Liberty County, Georgia
- Died: 1912
Susie Baker’s grandmother ensured that she received an education from literate neighbors when it was illegal in Georgia for slaves to be taught.
At the start of the Civil War, she and her family sought refuge from the Union fleet at St Catherine’s Island. There, the thirteen-year-old girl opened the first free black school in Georgia.
She also taught black soldiers in the 33rd Colored Troops to read and write. She then became a nurse to help the wounded in Union camps.
After the War, she opened several schools for black children and published her memoirs. You can find an online copy from the University of North Carolina.
Baker’s first husband was a soldier named Edward King. After he died, she married Russell Taylor. If you want to research more, you may find some bios under the name “Susie Baker King Taylor”.
- Born: 1903
- From: Norfolk, Virginia
- Died: 1986
Ella Baker’s early activist work was in groups formed to promote black economic power. She believed in local action for social change.
After graduating from Shaw University in North Carolina, she moved to New York. Baker became immersed in the cross-pollination of activism and culture that emerged with the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s.
She started working for the NAACP in 1938 and pushed for grassroots campaigns. She traveled around the South and worked with people like Septima Clark who was combining adult schools with activism workshops.
Baker was one of the organizers of the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, during which Dr Martin Luther King gave the “Give Us The Ballot” speech.
She was later involved in coordinating the Freedom Rides of 1961 and many other activist groups. She attended the March On Washington in 1963 with other female activists like Edna Griffin.
Other women activists who worked with Dr. King
Johnnie Carr was one of the organizers of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Xernona Clayton was a close friend of Coretta Scott King and worked behind the scenes organizing civil rights programs in Atlanta.
Baker In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research.
Here are examples of the Baker surname from three 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 Baker was in December 1866.
Samuel Baker was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in December 1866 at St Louis, Missouri.
One of the later entries was in May 1914. Wash Baker was a Saddler in the Tenth Cavalry. (The picture below is of members of the Tenth Cavalry four years later).
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 Baker was for Alfred Baker from Charleston, South Carolina. He enlisted in December 1862 at Philadelphia when he was aged 27.
The record shows that Alfred was assigned on July 1863 to the ship De Soto.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Barber. 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 Philadelphia in July 1864. Zachariah was aged 34 and was from Greenwich, New Jersey.
He was assigned to the ship Lehigh on December 1864.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Mariner. His naval rank was Ordinary Seaman.
An ordinary seaman in the Navy is an apprentice who serves on the deck.
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. The photograph above (from the Library of Congress) shows a class in session.
They flew single-engine fighter planes or twin-engine bombers. 352 fought in combat.
Lee Baker graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in December 1943. He qualified as a Liaison Pilot.