The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 44,276 black Americans with Harrison as their last name. That represented 24% of the total of 181,091 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Harrison.
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.
9,329 people named Harrison were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,312 as mixed.
There was a total of 36,981 people with the name.
Harrison 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 13,730 people with the last name Harrison as black within a total of 61,195 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 16,862 people named Harrison as black within a total of 99,987.
Historic Black Figures With The Harrison Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Harrison as their last name.
- Born: 1883
- From: St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
- Died: 1927
Hubert Harrison grew up in the Virgin Islands and was seventeen when he arrived in New York in 1900. He worked by day and went to school at night where he was noted as an outstanding student.
The young man was shocked by the racial conditions in the U.S. and wrote erudite letters to the New York Times to protest lynching.
Harrison read widely and was very influenced by socialist and protest philosophies. He considered Booker T. Washington to be too conservative. Harrison wrote critical letters to a newspaper about Washington which led to him losing his job with the U.S. Post Office in 1910.
He went to work for the Socialist Party of America and became an influential black figure in the movement. He eventually fell out with the organization and resigned from the party in 1918.
Hubert was a friend of the Jamaican-born American journalist Joel Augustus Rogers.
- Born: 1887
- From: Columbus, Mississippi
- Died: 1967
Juanita Harrison left school at the age of ten and worked as a nanny and cleaner. Her love of travel led to her visiting 22 countries throughout her life. She worked where she traveled to fund a wandering lifestyle.
Harrison wrote extensive letters describing her travels. One of her employers in Hawaii was so impressed with the journals that he collected them together and published them as My Great Wide Beautiful World.
The book was published in 1936 and serialized in the Atlantic Monthly to literary acclaim.
Harrison In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Harrison 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 Harrison was in May 1867. Henry Harrison was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in May 1867 at Fort Gibson, Connecticut.
One of the later entries was in January 1914. Toney Harrison 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.
One of the earliest entries for Harrison was for Walter Harrison from Hanover County, Virginia. He enlisted in June 9 1862 at Fort Mifflin when he was aged 38.
The record shows that Walter was assigned on May 1 1865 to the ship Brazileira.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Cook. His naval rank was Wardroom Steward.
The wardroom was the officers mess cabin. Stewards were assigned to the room to prepare meals.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Norfolk in October 22 1863. William was aged 19 and was from Eastern Shore, Virginia.
He was assigned to the ship St. Lawrence on March 31 1864.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Baker. 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.
Alvin Harrison graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in November 1945. He qualified as a bomber pilot. Alvin was from Chicago, Illinois.
James Harrison came from Texarkana, Texas. He graduated in June 1945 as a fighter pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.