This article looks at whether Devon is a typically African American first name.
We look at the historic picture by reviewing census records from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The more recent censuses don’t publish full names for privacy reasons. So, I had to look for alternative sources to get the current picture in recent years.
Devon In The 19th And Early 20th Century.
To review whether Devon was a popular first name amongst black communities in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I looked at several federal censuses.
The 1870 federal census was the first census taken after the emancipation of slaves. This was the first census that counted all African Americans.
Devon as a first name was rare in 1870. There were only eighteen people with the name that year.
The census takers marked three residents as black. This represents seventeen percent of the total.
By 1900, there were ninety-three people with the name. Twelve percent were black.
The number of Devons had grown significantly to 1,345 in 1940. But the black proportion had fallen to five percent.
My conclusion is that Devon was not a common black name in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Devon In The 1960s and Early 1970s
Researchers looked at mortgage applications in 2007 where the forms included a question about ethnicity. This allowed them to prepare statistics of first names by ethnic heritage.
We can guess that most of the applicants were aged from thirty to fifty. So, the numbers represent people born in the 1960s and early 1970s.
There were 207 people named Devon who applied for a mortgage. This was the ethnic breakdown:
- White: 85%
- Black: 11%
- Hispanic: 2%
As you can see, the black percentage was relatively small.
I also had a look at the very similar name of Devin (with an I instead of an o).
Devin was actually more common, with a total of 323 applications. Devin had an even lower percentage of 6%.
I conclude that Devon was not typically African American in the 1960s and 1970s.
Is Devon An African American First Name Currently?
Several online archives have collected thousands of high school yearbooks from the early 1900s up to 2016.
I used Ancestry.com for my research. First, I ran name searches on three southern states with a significant black population:
I used different time frames between 2006 and 2016. I wanted to find at least fifteen students with the name per state. That meant I had to use a wider time range for some.
The table below is the summary of my review.
The column headed “Devon” was the total number of students with the name that I found across the schools with uploaded yearbooks.
Most of the students were male, but some were female. This was the breakdown:
- Georgia: one white female
- Louisiana: three white females
- Mississippi: two white females and one black female
In two of the states, there were more African American students named Devon. The percentage was over fifty.
However, the percentage dropped to about a third in Louisiana.
My conclusion is that Devon has become more popular as a choice for African American parents.
What about New Hampshire?
To balance this survey, I also looked at a state with a low black population.
I searched the New Hampshire yearbooks from 2006 to 2016 for anyone named Devon.
There were fifteen students in the search results. None were African American.
Why were there so few schools in this survey?
Of course, there are more than seventeen schools in Louisiana (there are 558 to be exact). But many schools don’t have yearbooks available online.
The second column in the table shows the number of schools that came up in the results when I searched for the name Devon.
It’s also possible that a school has a yearbook online but has nobody by the name of Devon. That means the school doesn’t get counted in this survey.
The challenge of using high school photos
If you’ve looked at historic census records in the U.S., you’ll know that ethnicity is one of the questions that people are asked.
This means that the census archives can be searched by ethnicity as well as specific names. However, I could only search the high school yearbooks by student names and school locations.
So, how did I identify African Americans from people of other heritage?
Well, the recent high school yearbooks have photographs of the students. I did it by eye.
I’m not going to be right with every pick. So, treat these numbers as an estimate.
I did similar reviews of other “on” names i.e. names ending in “on”. Check these out:
In terms of similarly sounding names to Devon, check out our review of whether Dwayne is a typically black first name.