The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 53,937 black Americans with Grant as their last name. That represented 38% of the total of 142,277 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Grant in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Grant 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 Grant 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 226 people named Grant who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 139 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 12,477 free citizens named Grant 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.
5,930 people named Grant were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 697 as mixed.
There was a total of 26,018 people with the name.
Grant 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 12,029 people with the last name Grant as black within a total of 45,142 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 17,759 people named Grant as black within a total of 69,806.
Historic Black Figures With The Grant Surname
Here are some notable African American people in history with Grant as their last name.
- Born: About 1830
- From: Maryland
Joseph Grant was captured four times after escaping from four owners. He was punished severely the last time and resolved to get away for good. His story is documented in The Underground Railroad by William Still.
Joseph and one companion, John Speaks, reached Ship Island and met some sympathetic English sailors who helped them reach Liverpool, England.
Although they found accommodation in a sailors’ boarding house, they were destitute in Liverpool. The pair wanted to return to America and were aided in their journey homeward by the keeper of the boarding house.
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.
We have an extract of the direct testimony of Joseph Grant from The Underground Railway by William Still. It is rather harrowing but he lived to tell the tale.
- Born: 1865
- From: Pittsfield, Massachussetts
- Died: 1937
Several sports historians rank Ulysses Franklin Grant as the greatest black baseball player of the 19th century.
Although small (he stood 5’7’’), his strength at the plate saw him hit 11 home runs in 1887 and “hit for the cycle” in 1887.
To “hit for the cycle” refers to the very rare feat of a single, double, triple, and a home run in one game.
He starred for the Buffalo Bisons in Illinois before the segregation of the league in 1889. He then played successfully for several teams in the black league. In 2006, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The baseball color line was firmly established in the late 19th century to bar black players from major and minor league baseball.
Several black leagues were formed with professional and semi-professional clubs. Some of the outstanding players were the best of their generation, regardless of color.
The color line was eventually broken by Jackie Robinson in 1945.
Other great players from the early black leagues
Here are more outstanding players and/or coaches from the first black professional leagues:
Grant In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research.
Here are examples of the Grant 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 Grant was in May 1867. William Grant was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in May 1867 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in May 1914. William Grant was a Sergeant 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 Grant was for Andrew Grant from Nashville, Tennessee. He enlisted in November 1863 at New York when he was aged 26.
The record shows that Andrew was assigned on October 1864 to the ship Governor Buckingham.
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.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Hampton Roads in October 1863. John was aged 21 and was from Gates County, North Carolina.
He was assigned to the ship Comm. Morris on January 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmhand. His naval rank was Contraband.
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. The photograph above (from the Library of Congress) shows a class in session.
They flew single-engine fighter planes or twin-engine bombers. 352 fought in combat.
Arnold Grant graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in September 1943. He qualified as a Liaison pilot. Arnold was from Coffeyville, Kansas.