The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 159,038 black Americans with Green as their last name. That represented 37% of the total of 430,182 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Green in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Green 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 Green 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 2,089 people named Green who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 664 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 46,002 free citizens named Green 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.
27,191 people named Green were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 3,128 as mixed.
There was a total of 99,560 people with the name.
Green 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 54,854 people with the last name Green as black within a total of 163,412 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 70,859 people named Green as black within a total of 243,378.
Historic Black Figures With The Green Surname
Here are some notable African American people in history with Green as their last name.
- Born: 1845
- From: New Bern, North Carolina
- Died: 1940
John Patterson Green was born to free parents in North Carolina. His widowed mother moved to Cleveland where the young John both worked and attended school.
He graduated with a law degree in 1870.
As a successful criminal attorney and Justice of the Peace in Ohio, he presided over nearly twelve thousand cases. When he was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1891, he was the first black Ohio senator.
John P. Green sponsored the legislation that established Labor Day as a public holiday in Ohio. He is known in the state as the Father of Labor Day.
If you want to know more, Case Western Reserve University has a bio.
Other pioneering black legislators
Here are just some of the early African American legislators elected to House and Senate positions.
- Born: 1939
- From: Washington, D.C.
- Died: 2020
Before he volunteered to be a Freedom Rider, Reginald Green had participated in protest sit-ins at Richmond’s segregated department stores.
He joined the Freedom Rides after watching six white and seven black activists evacuated from a bus in Alabama which was then fire-bombed.
Reginald was a college sophomore in 1961 when he sat on a Trailways bus from Nashville, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. Green and his companions were arrested and jailed for five weeks in Jackson.
Reverend Green went on to graduate in divinity studies and become a Baptist pastor.
The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode on segregated buses in the South from 1961. They sat in mixed groups to challenge seating segregation.
If they weren’t arrested on the bus, they would disembark and sit in segregated cafes and terminals.
The activists endured violent arrests from local police who would also let gathering mobs attack them. Many of the Freedom Riders were young college students.
Other freedom riders in the 1960s
- Born: 1941
- From: Little Rock, Arkansas
Ernest Green grew up in Little Rock where he completed his junior year at the black Horace Mann High School. The local branch of the NAACP, under the leadership of Daisy Bates, were forming a small group of black students to be the first to desegregate a Little Rock school.
Ernest was the oldest student to volunteer. He was the only sophomore to enter Little Rock Central High in 1957 as one of group that became known as the Little Rock Nine.
The Governor sent the National Guard to prevent their entry, while President Eisenhower sent troops to enforce the court order of desegregation. The brave young students also faced hostile crowds who gathered outside the school.
In 1958, Ernest Green was the first African American to graduate from the school. Martin Luther King attended his graduation ceremony.
Members of the Little Rock Nine
Here are some of the members:
Green In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Green surname from three different military services:
- Black civil war sailors
- Buffalo soldiers
- Tuskegee airmen
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 Green was for Albert Green from Brownsville, Tennessee. He enlisted in September 1862 at Fulton, Tennessee when he was aged 26.
The record shows that Albert was assigned on March 1864 to the ship Black Hawk.
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.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Cricket in January 1863. James was aged 20 and was from Jackson County, Iowa.
He was assigned to the ship Sibyl on June 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Cook. His naval rank was Seaman.
A seaman in the Navy is a sailor who is not an officer.
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 Green was in July 1867. George Green was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in July 1867 at Fort Gibson, Connecticut.
One of the later entries was in June 1915. Miles M Green 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.
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.
William Green graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in July 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. William was from Staunton, Virginia.
His combat credits said:
Downed 1 Massachussetts-202 on July 16, 1944; Downed 1 He-111 on October 12, 1944
This means that he shot down two enemy planes that year.
Jacob Green came from Fort Worth, Texas. He graduated in March 1946 as a fighter pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.