The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 45,768 black Americans with Hawkins as their last name. That represented 33% of the total of 139,751 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Hawkins.
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.
6,707 people named Hawkins were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,113 as mixed.
There was a total of 26,684 people with the name.
Hawkins 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 14,155 people with the last name Hawkins as black within a total of 48,003 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 19,392 people named Hawkins as black within a total of 75,670.
Historic Black Figures With The Hawkins Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Hawkins as their last name.
- Born: About 1809
- From: Georgetown, Maryland
Walter Hawkins was born into slavery in Maryland. His father was encouraged by the Quakers to work overtime to save enough to purchase his freedom, however he could not afford to free his children.
Walter grew up working in the household of an eccentric widow who was in the habit of handing out beatings with a stick. One day, he was brought to a slave-trader who arranged his sale. That night, his father wept and told him to run away.
The young Hawkins made it to Baltimore, and tricked his way onto a train to Philadelphia. His owners had already advertised for his arrest, and members of the Underground Railroad were on the lookout for him. These members (all female) recognized him on the train and pointed him in the right direction.
There’s plenty more to this story which ends with Walter Hawkins rising to become a Bishop of the British Methodist Episcopal Church Canada. You can read it in his own words in the online book of his life published in 1891.
Other Slave Narratives
The account of Hawkins’ life is considered to be part of the genre of slave narratives. Here are some more:
Gus Freeman Hawkins
- Born: 1907
- From: Shreveport, Louisiana
- Death: Unknown
Gus Hawkins grew up in Los Angeles where his father was a pharmacist. He graduated with a degree in economics from the University of California in 1931.
While working in real estate, he formed a political club with college friends and won election to the California sate assembly in 1935.
Hawkins spent 27 years in the assembly with a strong focus on issues within the African American community. His work included legislation on fair housing and anti-discrimination in the workplace.
Hawkins was endorsed by John F. Kennedy to run for a seat in Congress in 1962. He secured 85% of the vote when up against a black Republican lawyer.
He became a powerful politician through chairing several major committees. He continued his focus on civil rights legislation through his time.
Hawkins In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Hawkins 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 Hawkins was in August 1867. John Hawkins was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in August 1867 at Fort Riley (Kansas) and Washington D.C..
One of the later entries was in February 1915. Ollies B Hawkins was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry.
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 Hawkins was for Henry Hawkins from Middletown, Ohio. He enlisted in February 14 1862 at Cincinnati when he was aged 22.
The record shows that Henry was assigned on April 1 1863 to the ship Great Western.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter. 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 Cincinnati in October 15 1863. Thomas was aged 19 and was from Butler County, Ohio.
He was assigned to the ship Grampus on March 31 1864.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Cook. His naval rank was Ordinary Seaman.
An ordinary seaman in the Navy is an apprentice who serves on the deck.
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.
Donald Hawkins graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in November 1944. He qualified as a bomber pilot. Donald was from San Bernardino, California.
Kenneth Hawkins came from San Bernardino, California. He graduated in January 1944 as a bomber pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.