Diggs As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 9,847 black Americans with Diggs as their last name. That represented 68% of the total of 14,467 entries.

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

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.

1,747 people named Diggs were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 272 as mixed.

There was a total of 3,071 people with the name.

Diggs 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 3,597 people with the last name Diggs as black within a total of 5,315 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 3,708 people named Diggs as black within a total of 6,986.

Historic Black Figures With The Diggs Surname

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

James Diggs

  • Born: about 1866
  • From: Upper Marlboro, Maryland
  • Died: 1923

James Robert Lincoln Diggs joined the Baptist Church in 1885 in Washington D.C. (he converted from Catholicism) and worked as a teacher while studying for a college preparatory degree. He gained a B.A. (1898) and M.A. (1899) from Bucknell University in Philadelphia. He was ordained as a minister that year.

When Diggs gained his PhD in sociology in 1906, he was the first African American to do so. He was a university lecturer as well as being a civil rights activist. Diggs was part of the protest against the segregation of streetcars in Richmond in a two-year boycott from 1904.

Diggs traveled to a town near the Niagara Falls in 1905 to meet with a group of like-minded African Americans. The group formed the Niagara Movement to advocate equal rights and against segregation. The Niagara Movement preceded the NAACP, with many members being part of the founding the younger organization.

Other founders of the Niagara Movement

Here are some other co-founders:

Hannah Diggs

  • Born: 1923
  • From: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • Died: 2010

Hannah Diggs married Charles Atkins in 1943 and graduated in the same year with a science degree. While working as a librarian, she continued her studies in law and public administration.

Hannah Atkins was the first African American woman to be elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. She was heavily involved in legislation protecting civil rights, women’s rights, and healthcare.

After a stint at the United Nations, Atkins was appointed Oklahoma’s Secretary of State in 1987.

Diggs In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Diggs surname from 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 Diggs was in December 1867. Robert Diggs was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in December 1867 at Washington D.C..

One of the later entries was in March 1914. Harry H Diggs was a Private in the U.S. Tenth 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.

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.

John Diggs

One of the earliest entries for Diggs was for John Diggs from Mathews Co., Virginia. He enlisted in December 1 1862 at Gen. Putnam/Hampton Roads when he was aged 22.

The record shows that John was assigned on April 1 1863 to the ship Ben Morgan.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.

“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.

James Diggs

One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New York in September 7 1863. James was aged 23 and was from Gettysburgh, Pennsylvania.

He was assigned to the ship Keystone State on April 1 1863.

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

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

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 Diggs graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in February 1944. He qualified as a bomber pilot. Charles was from Roxbury, Massachussetts.