The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 58,208 black Americans with Banks as their last name. That represented 55% of the total of 105,833 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Banks in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
After The Civil War
In 1850 and 1860, only free African Americans were recorded in the census. The many enslaved were omitted.
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.
From 1870 onwards, all black Americans were included.
7,648 people named Banks were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,048 as mixed.
There was a total of 16,525 people with the name.
Banks 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 16,886 people with the last name Banks as black within a total of 29,967 that year.
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 22,087 people named Banks as black within a total of 51,679.
Historic Black Figures With The Banks Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Banks as their last name.
Anna DeCosta Banks
- Born: 1869
- From: Charleston, South Carolina
- Died: 1930
Anna DeCosta married Issiah Banks in the late 1880s while studying at Hampton Institute in Virgnia. After graduating, she studied at Hampton’s nurse training hospital.
She became hugely influential in healthcare for African Americans in Charleston and beyond. Anna served as the Superintendant of Nurses at the traning hospital for thirty-two years.
- Born: 1873
- From: Clarksdale, Mississippi
- Died: 1923
Charles Banks was the child of former slaves in Mississippi. He started a retail store in Clarksdale before he was twenty. In the early 1900s, he founded a bank in the black town of Mound Bayou.
Charles met Booker T Washington in 1900 at the inaugural meeting of the National Negro Business League. He was elected to the organizing committee in 1903, and became Washington’s deputy by 1907.
Banks promoted black-owned businesses throughout Mississippi and especially in Mound Bayou.
Other early black bankers
Here are some other significant African Americans in the banking industry:
- Preston Taylor helped establish the Citizens Bank in Tennessee.
- Maggie Walker founded the St Luke Penny Savings Bank.
Banks In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Banks surname from several different military services.
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 Banks was in July 1867. Robert Banks was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in July 1867 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in May 1914. William Banks was a Wagoner in the Tenth Cavalry. This means he was responsible for transporting supplies and caring for the horses.
If you are researching military ancestors, there is a free index of these records on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
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 Banks was for Lewis Banks from Westmoreland County, Virginia. He enlisted in December 1861 at Philadelphia when he was aged 25.
The record shows that Lewis was assigned on January 1863 to the ship Brooklyn.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter/Farmer. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Washington in November 1864. Lindsey was aged 26.
He was assigned to the ship Matthew Vassar on June 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Cook. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.