The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 37,974 black Americans with Cook as their last name. That represented 13% of the total of 302,589 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Cook.
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.
7,564 people named Cook were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,453 as mixed.
There was a total of 72,973 people with the name.
Cook 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 14,852 people with the last name Cook as black within a total of 118,300 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 17,169 people named Cook as black within a total of 177,364.
Historic Black Figures With The Cook Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Cook as their last name.
Helen Appo Cook
- Born: 1837
- From: New York
- Died: 1913
Helen Appo’s mother was a supporter of women’s rights who brought her teenage daughter to meetings and talks about the cause. She married a wealthy Black Washingtonian in 1864 and the couple were prominent activists in D.C.
Helen Appo Cook was a leader in a variety of organizations to support African Americans in poverty and also to support women’s suffrage. She was a founder of the Colored Women’s League in 1892, alongside other leaders like Ida Bell Wells and Mary Church Terrell.
A committed activists for civil rights, Cook became disillusioned with the suffrage movement for sidelining the cause of the black vote.
Coralie Franklin Cook
- Born: 1861
- From: Lexington, Virginia
- Died: 1942
Coralie Franklin was born to enslaved parents in Virginia. She was a great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Hemings, the mother of Sally Hemings (enslaved by Thomas Jefferson).
Carolie graduated from college at Harper’s Ferry, the only black institute in West Virginia at the time. When she taught at Howard University, she met George William Cook who was dean there. They married in 1898.
Coralie Franklin Cook was a prominent educator in Washington. She spent twelve years on the Board of Education. She was also a staunch proponent of womens’ rights, and was heavily involved in leagues and clubs for black women.
She was eventually disillusioned by how the suffrage movement had ignored black interests. But she continued to battle in later years against the effects of the Jim Crow laws.
Cook In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Cook surname from different military services:
- Buffalo soldiers
- Black civil war sailors
- Tuskegee airmen
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 Cook was in September 1867. Joseph Cook was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in September 1867 at Fort Gibson, Connecticut.
One of the later entries was in May 1915. Joshua Cook was a Sergeant 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 Cook was for Alfred Cook from Washington, District of Columbia. He enlisted in June 3 1858 at Boston when he was aged 19.
The record shows that Alfred was assigned on January 1 1900 to the ship .
His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter. 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 September 19 1863. William was aged 21 and was from Annapolis, Maryland.
He was assigned to the ship Mahaska on September 9 1864.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Laborer/Farmboy. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.
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.
Martin Cook graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in April 1944. He qualified as a bomber pilot. Martin was from Purcellville, Virginia.