The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 13,979 black Americans with Benson as their last name. That represented 16% of the total of 86,081 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Benson.
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.
1,629 people named Benson were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 319 as mixed.
There was a total of 13,709 people with the name.
Benson 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 3,546 people with the last name Benson as black within a total of 31,244 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 5,251 people named Benson as black within a total of 52,468.
Historic Black Figures With The Benson Surname
Here is a notable African American in history with Benson as their last name.
- Born: 1850s
- From: Kowaliga Creek, Alabama
John Benson was born enslaved. He was given his freedom and a mule after the Civil War, and spent a year searching for his sister in Florida. When he found her, they returned to Alabama where he worked in the coal mines.
John saved up his money, and in 1890 he bought 160 acres of the plantation where he had once lived. His farm was successful, and he purchased more land each year. He owned 3000 acres by 1898 and was a wealthy businessman.
John Benson’s plantation had a grist mill, a sawmill, and a cotton gin. He gave at least three of his children a college education.
Benson In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Benson surname from military service.
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 Benson was in January 1874. Hardy Benson was a Recruit in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry. He was stationed in January 1874 at Ringgold Barracks, Texas.
Another entry was in January 1911. Harris Benson was a Private 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 Benson was for Carey Benson from Norfolk, Virginia. He enlisted in July 1862 at Hampton Roads when he was aged 26.
The record shows that Carey was assigned on January 1863 to the ship Roman.
His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was a rank generally given to seamen in training, who performed various manual tasks and duties aboard a ship under supervision. This could prepare them for promotion to the rank of ordinary seaman.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Simons Town in August 1864. John was aged 23 and was from New York City.
He was assigned to the ship Relief on June 1865.
His naval rank was Ordinary Seaman.
An ordinary seaman in the Navy is an apprentice who serves on the deck.