Cooper As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 73,370 black Americans with Cooper as their last name. That represented 26% of the total of 280,791 entries.

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

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 onwards, all black Americans were included.

8,722 people named Cooper were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,216 as mixed.

There was a total of 48,940 people with the name.

Cooper 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 18,008 people with the last name Cooper as black within a total of 84,296 that year.

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 27,252 people named Cooper as black within a total of 144,271.

Historic Black Figures With The Cooper Surname

Here are some notable African Americans in history with Cooper as their last name.

Anna Cooper

  • Born: 1858
  • From: Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Died: 1964

Anna Julia Haywood was born into slavery in North Carolina. Her maiden name was from her mother’s slave owner.

After Emancipation, she went to St Augustine’s institute in Raleigh on a scholarship. She met her husband, George Cooper, at the school. He unfortunately died young.

Anna Cooper was highly successful academically. She went on to lecture at the institute in history, English, music, and the classics. She then attended Oberlin College and graduated with an M.A. in Mathematics.

When she moved to Washington D.C. in 1892, Cooper taught Latin at a black high school in Washington. During that time, she spoke often on civil and women’s rights.

She also wrote several books, including “A Voice From The South”, which promoted black female education.

Cooper was a co-founder of the Colored Women’s League. Ida Bell Wells was another co-founder.

Benjamin Franklin Cooper

  • Born: 1864
  • From: Illinois
  • Died: Unknown

Benjamin Franklin Cooper was born in Illinois in 1864. At some point, he moved to Buxton in Iowa.

Buxton was a coal mining town that was seen at the time as a “Black Utopia” that offered opportunities for African Americans. It was a natural draw for an ambitious young pharmacist.

By 1892, Cooper had the largest pharmacy business in the town and was a prominent businessman.

He used his wealth to fund a semi-professional baseball team, the Buxton Wonders. He also managed the team in the early part of the twentieth century.

Other notable black pharmacists include:

Cooper In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Cooper surname from three 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 Cooper was in Jun 1867. John S. Cooper was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in Jun 1867 at Fort Leavenworth and Philadelphia.

One of the later entries was in January 1914. Archie Cooper was a Sergeant in the 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.

James D. Cooper

One of the earliest entries for Cooper was for James D. Cooper from Philadelphia. He enlisted in December 1861 at Philadelphia when he was aged 21.

The record shows that James D. was assigned on December 1863 to the ship Mystic.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Barber. His naval rank was Landsman.

“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.

Horace Cooper

One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Washington in April 1864. Horace was aged 39 and was from Annapolis, Maryland.

He was assigned to the ship Yankee on April 1865.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Sailor. His naval rank was 2nd Class Fireman.

Firemen in the Navy worked in the engine room and with other machinery.

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.

Charles Cooper graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in September 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Charles was from Washington, D.C.

Edward Cooper came from Sharon, Louisiana. He graduated in September 1945 as a bomber pilot.

You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.