The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 134,162 black Americans with Carter as their last name. That represented 36% of the total of 376,966 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Carter in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Carter Before The Civil War
The 1850 census was the first to record all free members of households together. Before this, people who were not white were not named in the federal census.
In 1850, there was a box to enter color on the census. There were three categories: white, black, and mulatto. The third term is the language of the time, and I will use mixed in this article.
If you are researching your black Carter ancestors in census archives, be sure to check the two non-white categories. Do not assume that the people recording the information were always correct.
1850 Federal Census
There were 1,010 people named Carter who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 643 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 31,667 free citizens named Carter that year. There would be one more census in 1860 before the Civil War.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. All African Americans were included.
Those who were omitted in 1850 and 1860 because they were enslaved were now recorded.
17,426 people named Carter were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 2,896 as mixed.
There was a total of 63,505 people with the name.
Carter In The 1900 And 1940 Census
The mixed category was dropped in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.
The 1900 census recorded 37,512 people with the last name Carter as black within a total of 113,816 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 50,655 people named Carter as black within a total of 188,149.
Historic Black Figures With The Carter Surname
Here are some notable African American people in history with Carter as their last name.
Eunice Hunton Carter
- Born: 1899
- From: Atlanta, Georgia
- Died: 1970
Eunice Hunton’s father William was the founder of the black division of the YMCA. Her mother Addie was active in the NAACP in New York.
Eunice was the first woman to get a law degree from Fordham University. She married Lisle Carter, an African American dentist.
Eunice Carter was the first African American ADA in New York when she was appointed in 1935. She was the driving force in bringing down Lucky Luciano, the Mafia mobster.
Eunice did the legwork on forming the case around prostitution racketeering. Her boss, DA Thomas Dewey, made his name by prosecuting the case.
She was a trusted adviser to Dewey in his successful run as Governor of New York, and his unsuccessful runs for President.
Carter later took appointments with the United Nations and advocated for women’s rights worldwide.
Other pioneering African American lawyers
- Born: 1923
- From: Hempstead County, Arkansas
- Died: 2022
Vertie Lee Glasgow grew up in a sharecropping household in Arkansas. She studied for her Masters in Education from the University of Arkansas at a time when African Americans weren’t allowed on the college campus.
She married Isaiah Carter in 1958.
Vertie Carter developed the teacher accreditation programs at both Philander Smith College and Arkansas Baptist College in Arkansas. Governor Winthrop Rockefeller appointed her to the state council that oversaw equal opportunity employment.
Chairing the council for seven years, Carter rooted out discriminatory practices and overhauled appointment systems. That included hiring black members of appointment boards.
You can read her obituary in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Carter In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Carter surname from three different military services:
- Black civil war sailors
- Buffalo soldiers
- Tuskegee airmen
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 Carter was for Nash Carter from Currituck County, North Carolina. He enlisted in October 1862 at Hampton Roads when he was aged 25.
The record shows that Nash was assigned on January 1863 to the ship Ben Morgan.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter/Farmhand. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New York in March 1864. Beaddy was aged 24 and was from Accomad County, Virginia.
He was assigned to the ship Lancaster on December 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Laborer. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.
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 Carter was in September 1867. Isaac Carter was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in September 1867 at Fort Riley, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in February 1914. Thomas Carter was a Sergeant in the 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.
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. The photograph above (from the Library of Congress) shows a class in session.
They flew single-engine fighter planes or twin-engine bombers. 352 fought in combat.
James Carter graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in April 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. James was from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Floyd Carter came from Norfolk, Virginia. He graduated in March 1946 as a bomber pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.