The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 53,102 black Americans with Hunter as their last name. That represented 33% of the total of 162,440 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Hunter in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Hunter 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 Hunter 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 242 people named Hunter who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 92 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 15,333 free citizens named Hunter 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.
7,517 people named Hunter were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 911 as mixed.
There was a total of 32,866 people with the name.
Hunter 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 15,525 people with the last name Hunter as black within a total of 55,863 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 21,659 people named Hunter as black within a total of 85,634.
Historic Black Figures With The Hunter Surname
Here are some notable African American people in history with Hunter as their last name.
Jane Edna Hunter
- Born: 1882
- Died: 1971
Jane Edna Harris was married briefly to Edward Hunter but kept his name. She trained as a nurse in Charleston, South Carolina, and then in Virginia.
She worked as a nurse in Cleveland before studying law and passing the Ohio bar exam. Hunter founded the Phyllis Wheatley Association in 1911 to help black women migrating from the South to the North.
Many female migrants were vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers. Hunter opened several boarding homes to provide accommodation and vocational education.
By 1927, Hunter had secured funding and opened a large residence of eleven floors for African American women. The building also housed a beauty school, a nursery, and a playground.
One of the backers was Mary Richardson Jones, the black Chicago philanthropist. Some of the older female activists were opposed to having residences solely for the black community. The feeling was that this was bringing back another form of segregation.
But Jane Hunter took a pragmatic view from her own experience of not being able to stay at the local YWCA. She forged ahead with a practical solution.
When she wrote her autobiography, she titled it “A Nickel and Prayer” in reference to how she winged her way to establishing several residences for black women.
Other pioneering black educators
Here is just a selection of other black educators on this website:
- Born: about 1886
- From: Cloutierville, Louisiana
- Died: 1988
Clementine Hunter picked cotton from childhood in the Cane River Valley. She eventually worked as a housekeeper for the owner of the Melrose Plantation and began to paint in the 1930s. She was entirely self-taught.
When Clementine’s husband, Emmanuel Hunter, died in 1944, she had several children to support alone. She started to sell her paintings from her cabin.
Melrose Plantation had become an artists’ colony, and several recognized her talents in paintings, murals, and quilts. They helped promote her widely, leading to exhibitions and commissions.
Despite arthritis, she was still painting into her late nineties. Her work is currently shown in several arts museums in Louisiana and across the United States.
Hunter In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research.
Here are examples of the Hunter 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 Hunter was in December 1886. Samuel Hunter was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in December 1886 at St Louis, Missouri.
One of the later entries was in April 1911. Isaac Hunter was a Horseshoer 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.
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 Hunter was for Charles Hunter from Hempstead, Long Island. He enlisted in August 1862 at New York when he was aged 18.
The record shows that Charles was assigned on March 1863 to the ship Norwich.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Druggist. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Hampton Roads in July 1861. Peter was aged 19 and was from Middlesex County, Virginia.
He was assigned to the ship Roman on July 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer. His naval rank was Contraband.
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.
Willie Hunter graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in June 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Willie was from Albany, Georgia.
Marcellus Hunter came from Washington, D.C.. He graduated in October 1945 as a bomber pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.