Briggs As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 10,840 black Americans with Briggs as their last name. That represented 19% of the total of 58,408 entries.

This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Briggs.

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.

1,598 people named Briggs were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 193 as mixed.

There was a total of 17,674 people with the name.

Briggs 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 2,922 people with the last name Briggs as black within a total of 25,300 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 3,675 people named Briggs as black within a total of 33,798.

Historic Black Figures With The Briggs Surname

Here is a notable African American in history with Briggs as their last name.

Cyril Briggs

  • Born: 1888
  • From: West Indies
  • Died: 1966

Cyril Briggs grew up on the island of Nevis in the West Indies. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was seventeen. In 191, he started writing for the Amsterdam News, a black weekly newspaper in New York.

Briggs founded the African Blood Brotherhood in 1917, with the aim to prevent lynching and to promote voting rights. He joined the Communist Party in 1921, as he viewed the organization to e the most favorable to black rights.

Unlike some other prominent activists, Briggs believed in racial separatism. He wanted a separate black state for black people. His Marxist views led to a split with Marcus Garvey.

Briggs was an influential figure in the Communist Party over many decades, despite the occasional right (he was expelled and then rejoined).

Briggs In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Briggs surname from different military services:

  • Buffalo soldiers
  • Black civil war sailors
  • Tuskegee airmen

Buffalo Soldiers

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 Briggs was in April 1869. Moses Briggs was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in April 1869 at Fort Arbuckle.

Another entry was in September 1912. Albert J. Briggs was a Trumpeter in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry.

If you are researching military ancestors, there is a free index of these records on and

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.

William Briggs

One of the earliest entries for Briggs was for William Briggs from New York City. He enlisted in February 1864 at New York when he was aged 21.

The record shows that William was assigned on June 1864 to the ship Niagara.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter. His naval rank was Landsman.

“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.

Tuskegee Airmen

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.

John Briggs graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in May 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. John was from St. Louis, Missouri.

His combat credits said: Downed 1 Me-109 on August 24, 1944

Eugene Briggs came from Boston, Massachussetts. He graduated in March 1946 as a fighter pilot.

You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.