The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 13,316 black Americans with Christian as their last name. That represented 25% of the total of 54,198 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Christian.
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.
2,042 people named Christian were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 356 as mixed.
There was a total of 8,902 people with the name.
Christian 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 3,324 people with the last name Christian as black within a total of 14,448 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 4,279 people named Christian as black within a total of 26,560.
Historic Black Figures With The Christian Surname
Here is a notable African American in history with Christian as their last name.
The Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses and travel routes organized by many church and community leaders, civil rights activists, and abolitionists. Thousands of enslaved people were helped to escape from the South.
William Still kept substantial notes on fugitives who were helped on their way through Philadelphia. He published the notes in a book in 1872.
James Christian appears in the book as a fugitive who had spent the latter part of his enslaved life in the household of a former President of the United States.
James expressed a low opinion of former President William Tyler. But what set James’ mind to flee was when he fell in love but was forbidden from marriage.
You can read the full account in our excerpt on James Christian and The Underground Railroad.
Christian In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Christian surname from military service.
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 Christian was in September 1878. David Christian was a Private in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry. He was stationed in September 1878 at Fort Bayard.
Another entry was in August 1912. John B. Christian was a Captain in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry.
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 Christian was for Richard Christian from Richmond, Virginia. He enlisted in August 1863 at Natchez when he was aged 30.
The record shows that Richard was assigned on June 1864 to the ship Benton.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Steward. His naval rank was Officers Steward.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Yorktown in January 1864. John was aged 30 and was from New Kent County, Virginia.
He was assigned to the ship Mystic on March 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer. 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.