The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 52,451 black Americans with Henry as their last name. That represented 31% of the total of 170,964 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Henry.
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.
6,843 people named Henry were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 912 as mixed.
There was a total of 38,692 people with the name.
Henry 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 12,585 people with the last name Henry as black within a total of 61,487 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 16,973 people named Henry as black within a total of 89,543.
Historic Black Figures With The Henry Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Henry as their last name.
- Born: 1819
- From: Virginia
The slave owner of George Henry’s mother promised that she would be freed on his death. Although this did not happen, it put into the young George the urge for freedom. As a youth, he was overseer on the master’s plantation.
He then got work as a cook on a schooner. His voyages took him to Philadelphia and Washington, with many interesting encounters.
Henry’s next step was to skipper a schooner, which brought more adventures. Later, he worked for captains on bigger ships.
You can read about his sea-faring life in his own words, as he wrote his autobiography which is now online.
Paul Cuffe was born free and worked as a farmer and a sailor in his early life in the 1770s. He built up a successful shipping business in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and was an early abolitionist.
Other Slave Narratives
George Henry’s work is considered part of the genre of slave narratives that emerged in the 18th and 19th century. Here are some more:
This website has also reproduced the short autobiography of James Bradley, first published in1834.
- Born: 1933
- From: Nichols, South Carolina
Levi Henry was infuriated by unfair coverage of the African American community in the local newspaper of Fort Lauderdale. He met with the editors in 1971 and demanded a retraction.
When he was refused, Henry set out to launch his own newspaper. That was the start of the Westside Gazette, which is still a strong local publication.
Henry was inducted into the Hall Of Fame of the National Association Of Black Journalists in 2022.
Other members of the NABJ Hall Of Fame include:
Henry In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Henry 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 Henry was in May 1887. Wilson Henry was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in May 1887 at Fort Gibson, Connecticut.
One of the later entries was in May 1915. Vodrey Henry was a Corporal in the Ninth 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 Henry was for Louis Henry from Baltimore, Maryland. He enlisted in July 1861 at Boston when he was aged 22.
The record shows that Louis was assigned on July 1864 to the ship National Guard.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Carpenter. His naval rank was Ordinary Seaman.
An ordinary seaman in the Navy is an apprentice who serves on the deck.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New York in March 1863. Frederick was aged 23 and was from Newark, New Jersey.
He was assigned to the ship Mystic on January 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Barber. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.
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.
Warren Henry graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in September 1944. He qualified as a bomber pilot. Warren was from Plainfield, New Jersey.
William Henry came from New York, 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.