Gordon As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 47,174 black Americans with Gordon as their last name. That represented 29% of the total of 161,833 entries.

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

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.

4,655 people named Gordon were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 772 as mixed.

There was a total of 23,192 people with the name.

Gordon 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 8,987 people with the last name Gordon as black within a total of 42,430 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 20,517 people named Gordon as black within a total of 110,304.

Historic Black Figures With The Gordon Surname

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

Eugene Gordon

  • Born: 1891
  • From: Oviedo, Florida
  • Died: 1974

Eugene Gordon grew up in New Orleans. After he graduated from Howard University with a degree in English in 1917, he fought in France during World War I. Gordon was awarded a Victory Medal and was discharged in 1919.

He moved to Boston and became a feature writer for the Boston Daily Post. He also wrote fiction and organized a literary group for black writers (his wife Edythe was also a talented author). The couple were part of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Harlem Renaissance after the First World War was a period when African American art, literature, and music flourished around Harlem.

Painters, poets, writers, and musicians established a creative hub of black culture in the United States. The movement was hugely influential on the development of black literature and art through the twentieth century and today.

Gordon’s distaste for the poor treatment of African American veterans propelled him to join the Communist Party in 1931. He wrote about the social issues that best the black community.

He was a committed communist to the point that he went to the Soviet Union in 1937 to work for a year for the Moscow Daily News.

Other notable African American communists

The U.S. Communist Party was one of the few political organizations in the first half of the twentieth century that openly condemned racial segregation and discrimination. This drew black activists and intellectuals into the folder. Here are some others who were members at some point:

Milton Gordon

  • Born: 1935
  • From: Chicago, Illinois

Milton Gordon graduated with a degree in mathematics from the Xavier University of Louisiana in 1957.

He did an M.A. in Detroit and achieved his Ph.D in 1968 from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He was the first African American to attain a PhD from the institution.

His distinguished academic career as a Professor of Mathematics spanned several universities. This culminated in his appointment as the President of California State University, Fullerton in 1990.

Other Black Mathematicians

Here is another prominent mathematician:

Gordon In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Gordon 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 Gordon was in August 1867. James H Gordon was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in August 1867 at Fort Riley (Kansas) and Philadelphia.

One of the later entries was in June 1914. John Gordon was a Private in the U.S. 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.

Lewis Gordon

One of the earliest entries for Gordon was for Lewis Gordon from Detroit, Michigan. He enlisted in July 12 1862 at Baltimore when he was aged 36.

The record shows that Lewis was assigned on January 1 1863 to the ship Underwriter.

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

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

Hardy Gordon

One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Cincinnati in September 16 1863. Hardy was aged 35 and was from Hardeman County, Tennessee.

He was assigned to the ship Gazelle on March 31 1864.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Laborer. His naval rank was Fireman.

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.

Elmer Gordon graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in March 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Elmer was from Portsmouth, Virginia.

Joseph Gordon came from Brooklyn, New York. He graduated in February 1944 as a fighter pilot.

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