The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 10,476 black Americans with Davidson as their last name. That represented 10% of the total of 103,930 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Davidson.
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.
2,087 people named Davidson were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 338 as mixed.
There was a total of 20,039 people with the name.
Davidson 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 2,849 people with the last name Davidson as black within a total of 35,887 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 3,544 people named Davidson as black within a total of 60,796.
Historic Black Figures With The Davidson Surname
Here is a notable African American in history with Davidson as their last name.
- Born: 1949
- From: Detroit, Michigan
After Joe Davidson graduated with a degree in political science from Oakland University in 1971, he started his career as a journalist at the Detroit News.
He left for the Philadelphia Bulletin, and later became the City Hall reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In the mid-1980s, Davidson worked for the Wall Street Journal where he wrote about national politics and justice. Davidson went to Johannesburg to cover Nelson Mandela’s candidacy and election as President.
He was a co-founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and has many awards for his journalism.
Davidson In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Davidson 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 Davidson was in August 1868. John J. Davidson was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in August 1868 at Fort Harker, Kansas.
Another entry was in November 1912. George A. Davidson was a Private in the U.S. Tenth 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 Davidson was for Joshua Davidson from . He enlisted in June 1864 at Cincinnati when he was aged 20.
The record shows that Joshua was assigned on August 1864 to the ship Sibyl.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Fieldhand/Bricklayer. 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.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New Orleans in February 1864. Horace was aged 19 and was from New Orleans, Louisiana.
He was assigned to the ship Nyanza on September 1864.
His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.