Burks As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 11,622 black Americans with Burks as their last name. That represented 42% of the total of 27,523 entries.

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

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.

637 people named Burks were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 101 as mixed.

There was a total of 2,762 people with the name.

Burks 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 1,868 people with the last name Burks as black within a total of 5,798 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 3,527 people named Burks as black within a total of 11,573.

Historic Black Figures With The Burks Surname

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

Catherine Burks

  • Born: 1939
  • From: Selma, Alabama
  • Died: 2023

Catherine Burks studied at Tennesse State University in Nashville where she was also a civil rights activist. She was involved in demonstratinos organized by John Lewis (a future senator) and other leaders.

In her senior year at college, she volunteered to join the Freedom Rides.

The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode on segregated buses in the South from 1961. They sat in mixed groups to challenge seating segregation. If they weren’t arrested on the bus, they would disembark and sit in segregated cafes and terminals.

The activists endured violent arrests from local police who would also let gathering mobs attack them. Many of the Freedom Riders were young college students.

She joined nine other Nashville students, including her future husband Paul Brooks, on a bus from the city to Montgomery, Alabama in May 1961.

They were intercepted by the notorious police chief Bull Connor who arrested and jailed them. Connor then drove and dumped the students at the Tennessee state line and told them to take the train back to Nashville.

“We’ll see you back in Birmingham by high noon,” Burks retorted. Instead of boarding a train, the students made contact with a Freedom Ride organizer who arranged a car to get them to Birmingham.

Burks joined two more Freedom Rides to Montgomery, Alabama and to Jackson, Mississippi. In Jackson, she was arrested and sent to the Parchman state penitentiary. She and Paul Brooks married in August 1961.

Burks In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Burks surname from military service.

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 Burks was in July 1867. Dock Burks was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in July 1867 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Another entry was in December 1913. George Burks was a Private 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.

Burks In The Freedmen’s Bureau Records

The Freedmen’s Bureau was established after the Civil War to help newly freed African Americans. You can read more in our article on researching the Freedmen archives.

There are over 360 records for Burks in the archives. Here are some of the first names:

  • Albert
  • Rebecca
  • Recey
  • Spencer