The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 41,527 black Americans with Gibson as their last name. That represented 22% of the total of 190,667 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Gibson.
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.
6,174 people named Gibson were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 915 as mixed.
There was a total of 33,269 people with the name.
Gibson 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 11,978 people with the last name Gibson as black within a total of 58,714 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 17,583 people named Gibson as black within a total of 99,468.
Historic Black Figures With The Gibson Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Gibson as their last name.
- Born: 1854
- From: Mississippi
- Died: 1952
Mary Keys was born into slavery in 1854 on a Mississippi plantation. Her family moved to Texas after emancipation where she married the Reverend Franklin Gibson. The couple settled in Fort Worth where they founded an Episcopalian church.
Gibson worked as a midwife in the town. As the nursing colleges in Texas did not accept African Americans, Gibson pursued a nursing degree by correspondence. She graduated in 1907.
The 53-year-old was the first black accredited nurse in the South. To put that into perspective, California’s first registered black nurse was in 1946 (the mother of John Taylor).
Gibson spent her long life working to improve nursing standards and to desegregate the profession.
- Born: 1931
- From: Safford, Alabama
- Died: 2021
Benjamin Gibson grew up in Detroit and graduated from high school when he was only sixteen. He spent a couple of years in the army and then pursued a degree in accounting. Gibson worked as an accountant while studying law at night.
When he qualified as a lawyer, Gibson moved to Lansing (the state capital) in 1961 to become an Assistant Attorney General. He also started a successful private practice.
President Jimmy Carter appointed him as District Court Judge for the Western District of Michigan in 1979. He was the first black judge in the Western District.
Gibson In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Gibson surname from three 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 Gibson was in August 1867. James W Gibson was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in August 1867 at Fort Riley (Kansas) and Indianapolis.
One of the later entries was in February 1914. Van Gibson was a Private in the 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.
One of the earliest entries for Gibson was for Lewis Gibson from Baltimore, Maryland. He enlisted in December 13 1860 at New York when he was aged 23.
The record shows that Lewis was assigned on April 1 1863 to the ship St. Marys.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Barkeeper. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Covington/White River in July 9 1863. Andrew was aged 25 and was from Adams Co., Mississippi.
He was assigned to the ship Covington on March 31 1864.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Fieldhand. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
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.
John Gibson graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in October 1942. He qualified as a fighter pilot. John was from Chicago, Illinois.