The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 15,718 black Americans with Bradford as their last name. That represented 29% of the total of 54,015 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Bradford.
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.
2,282 people named Bradford were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 420 as mixed.
There was a total of 11,205 people with the name.
Bradford 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 4,756 people with the last name Bradford as black within a total of 18,130 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 6,660 people named Bradford as black within a total of 27,794.
Historic Black Figures With The Bradford Surname
Here is a notable African American in history with Bradford as their last name.
- Born: 1930
- From: Houston, Texas
Gloria Bradford finished high school at Houston’s Booker T Washington in 1946. She then studied at the segregated Prairie View College and got involved with the YWCA. After college, Gloria worked as a clerk in Washington where she roomed with Charlye O. Farris, who was studying law at Howard University.
Bradford was inspired to study law at the University of Texas. When she graduated in 1954, she was their first black female student to do so. Bradford joined a black legal practice in Houston and specialized in civil and criminal law.
She was the first African American woman to try a criminal case in Harris County. One of her notable cases was to appeal a restraining order by the State of Texas against the NAACP. Bradford worked with Thurgood Marshall on a successful appeal.
Bradford In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Bradford 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 Bradford was in August 1867. Caesar Bradford was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in August 1867 at Fort Riley, Kansas, and Baltimore, Maryland.
Another entry was in July 1914. William Bradford was a Corporal in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry.
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 Bradford was for Francis Bradford from Salem, Massachuchusetts. He enlisted in September 1862 at Boston when he was aged 21.
The record shows that Francis was assigned on January 1863 to the ship Lancaster.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Tanner. 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 Mississippi Sound in July 1864. Archie was aged 25 and was from Peterburg, Virginia.
He was assigned to the ship Buckthorn on April 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Laborer. 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.
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.
Clarence Bradford graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in December 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Clarence was from St. Louis, Missouri.