The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 25,313 black Americans with Fisher as their last name. That represented 12% of the total of 214,703 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Fisher in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Fisher Before The Civil War
The 1850 census was the first to record all free members of households together. Before this, people who were not white were not named in the federal census.
In 1850, there was a box to enter color on the census. There were three categories: white, black, and mulatto. The third term is the language of the time, and I will use mixed in this article.
If you are researching your black Fisher ancestors in census archives, be sure to check the two non-white categories. Do not assume that the people recording the information were always correct.
1850 Federal Census
There were 557 people named Fisher who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 212 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 28,353 free citizens named Fisher that year. There would be one more census in 1860 before the Civil War.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. All African Americans were included.
Those who were omitted in 1850 and 1860 because they were enslaved were now recorded.
4,445 people named Fisher were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 687 as mixed.
There was a total of 56,086 people with the name.
Fisher In The 1900 And 1940 Census
The mixed category was dropped in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.
The 1900 census recorded 8,756 people with the last name Fisher as black within a total of 92,870 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 10,688 people named Fisher as black within a total of 136,375.
Historic Black Figures With The Fisher Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Fisher as their last name.
- Born: About 1824
- From: Anne Arundel, Maryland
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.
Robert Fisher is one of the fugitives who are documented. He should have been freed from slavery in Maryland when he turned twenty-five but was still enslaved five years later.
He loathed the institution so much that he refused to marry so that he wouldn’t bring more misery into the world. Robert persuaded his friend Nathan Harris to escape with him during the Christmas week of 1854.
You can read the full account in our excerpt on Robert Fisher and The Underground Railroad.
- Born: 1867
- From: Columbia, Missouri
- Died: 1938
Annie Knowles worked as a cook from an early age for wealthy families and college kitchens. After she married a local reverend, William Fisher, she built a hugely successful catering business.
By the 1930s she owned a restaurant, twenty properties in downtown Columbia, and a farm that supplied her cooking produce.
Aside from catering to large banquets, Annie ran a mail-order business for her famed beaten biscuits.
A local newspaper estimated her wealth to be $100K in 1927. That would make her a millionaire by today’s standards.
Other successful African Americans in business
Here are some highly successful black entrepreneurs and business people from the 19th and 20th centuries.
- JT Allen of Rhode Island
- Sally Campbell of the Black Hills
- Sam Charles of Pensacola
- Hermann Russell of Atlanta
- Madam C J Walker of Louisiana
Fisher In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Fisher surname from two different military services.
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 Fisher was in August 1867. Ruben Fisher was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in August 1867 at Fort Riley .
One of the later entries was in January 1914. Charles Fisher was a Private in the Ninth 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.
One of the earliest entries for Fisher was for Joseph Fisher from Columbia, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in May 1861 at New York when he was aged 30.
The record shows that Joseph was assigned on March 1864 to the ship Shenandoah.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Carpenter. His naval rank was Seaman.
A seaman in the Navy is a sailor who is not an officer.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Washingon in September 1863. John was aged 22 and was from Washington, D.C..
He was assigned to the ship Thomas Freeborn on April 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Butcher/Laborer. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.