Hill As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 126,622 black Americans with Hill as their last name. That represented 29% of the total of 434,827 entries.

This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Hill in the last three centuries.

We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.

Hill 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 Hill 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 1,524 people named Hill who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 1,491 were recorded as mixed.

Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.

There was a total of 43,991 free citizens named Hill 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.

16,933 people named Hill were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 2,419 as mixed.

There was a total of 82,881 people with the name.

Hill 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 37,467 people with the last name Hill as black within a total of 146,490 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 51,793 people named Hill as black within a total of 233,660.

Historic Black Figures With The Hill Surname

Here are some notable African American people in history with Hill as their last name.

James Hill

  • Born: About 1837
  • From: Marshall County, Mississippi
  • Died: 1903

James Hill was born into slavery in Marshall County, Mississippi. The daughters of his owner taught him how to read and write. During the Civil War, he worked for the sons.

He may have been their half-brother and remained on friendly terms after emancipation.

James was elected to the Mississippi State Legislature in 1868. He served as the Secretary of State of Mississippi from 1874 to 1878.

He then held the offices of revenue collector and postmaster, despite opposition from Democrats.

In recent years, Jackson State University refurbished the large statue of Hill that stands Mount Olive Cemetery in Hinds County.

James Wesley Hill

  • Born: Early 1820s
  • From: Maryland
  • Died: Unknown

James Wesley Hill was born into slavery in Montgomery County, Maryland. He escaped in the late 1840s by crossing into Canada hidden in a packing box.

He found work in Oakville, built a house, and established a successful strawberry farm. Hill sent payment for his purchase to his former owner out of his first earnings in freedom.

He then established a safe route on the Underground Railroad. He personally returned to Maryland to bring hundreds of fugitives to freedom in Oakville.

He was known as Canada Jim back in Maryland. The authorities put a price on his head.

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.

Hill In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Hill 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.

George Hill

One of the earliest entries for Hill was for George Hill from Taunton, Massachussetts. He enlisted in December 1861 at New Bedford when he was aged 28.

The record shows that George was assigned on March 1864 to the ship Aroostock.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Mason. His naval rank was Landsman.

“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.

Benjamin Hill

One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Yorktown in December 1863. Benjamin was aged 44 and was from Essex County, Virginia.

He was assigned to the ship Mystic on January 1865.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.

“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.

Buffalo Soldiers

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 Hill was in September 1867. Abraham Hill was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in September 1867 at Fort Riley, Kansas and Wilmington, Maryland.

One of the later entries was in March 1915. Alonzo Hill 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.

Tuskegee Airmen

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 Hill graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in December 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. William was from Huntington, West Virginia.

His combat credits said: Downed 1 Me-109 on August 23, 1944

Charles Hill came from Washington, D.C.. He graduated in February 1944 as a bomber pilot.

You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.