Cain As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 10,361 black Americans with Cain as their last name. That represented 17% of the total of 60,948 entries.

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

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.

1,175 people named Cain were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 156 as mixed.

There was a total of 11,926 people with the name.

Cain 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 2,920 people with the last name Cain as black within a total of 20,809 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 4,348 people named Cain as black within a total of 33,148.

Historic Black Figures With The Cain Surname

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

Richard Cain

  • Born: 1825
  • From: Greenbrier County, Virginia
  • Died: 1887

Richard Cain’s father was black and his mother was Cherokee. He grew up in Ohio where he received an education at Wilberforce University, a black institution.

Cain was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1844. He was an active abolitionist and became a church elder in New York in 1864.

After the Civil War, he became active in the Republican Party and was elected to South Carolina Senate in 1868. He later served a term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Cain worked tirelessly to enact a Civil Rights bill.

He eventually moved to Washington D.C. and was appointed an AME Bishop.

Bobby Cain

  • Born: 1939
  • From: Clinton, Tennessee

The U.S. Supreme Court ordered desegregation of schools through their ruling on Brown vs Board of Education in 1954. Clinton High School was the first school chosen to be desegregated in Tennessee.

Bobby Cain had been traveling seventeen miles to a black school in Knoxville. Clinton High was at the bottom of Foley Hill, where Bobby lived. Bobby joined eleven other black students who enrolled at Clinton High in the fall of 1956.

On the second day, a white mob gathered at the school to prevent desegregation. Led by a Klan member, they hurled abuse and threats at the Clinton 12.

Despite the National Guard arriving to restore peace, property was damaged and bomb threats were made to the families. Most of the Clinton 12 had to withdraw from the school and even move away for safety.

Bobby Cain was the first African American to graduate from the school in 1957. Gail Ann Epps graduated the following year.

Cain In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Cain 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 Cain was in February 1884. Scott Cain was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in February 1884 at Fort Davis and Fort Concho, Texas.

Another entry was in May 1913. Peyton Cain was a Private 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.

Marcellas Cain

One of the earliest entries for Cain was for Marcellas Cain from Greenboro, Maryland. He enlisted in May 1864 at Baltimore when he was aged 24.

The record shows that Marcellas was assigned on July 1865 to the ship Macedonian.

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.

William Cain graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in October 1944. He qualified as a bomber pilot. William was from London, Ohio.