This website is running a series of articles on which first names are typically African American. So how does Terrell pan out?
To find out, I looked at historic census data, financial studies, and recent high school yearbooks.
My conclusion is that it wasn’t a typically black name historically. But it has become more so in recent decades.
Read on for the full details…
Is Terrell An African American First Name Currently?
Several archives have collected thousands of high school yearbooks from the early 1900s up to 2016.
I used Ancestry.com. My research was focused on three southern states with a significant black population.
I picked periods from 2006 to 2016 for Louisiana and Mississippi. Georgia had higher numbers so I narrowed the scope to 2011 to 2016.
The table below is the summary of my review. The column headed “Terrell” was the total number of kids with the name that I found across the schools with uploaded yearbooks.
Two of the black students were female, but the name was mostly given to boys.
Based on these yearbooks, Jerome isn’t an exclusively African American name in recent years. However, there is a very high percentage of black students with the name.
My conclusion is that Terrell is a typically African American male name in the 21st century.
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 Terrell.
There was only one young man named Terrell in the yearbooks in that decade. He was African American.
Why were there so few schools in this survey?
Of course, there are more than twelve 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 Terrell.
It’s also possible that a school has a yearbook online but has nobody by the name of Terrell. 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.
Terrell In The 1960s and Early 1970s
A research study used mortgage applications from 2007 to identify the breakdown of first names by ethnicity.
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 106 people named Terrell who applied for a mortgage. This was the ethnic breakdown:
- White: 61%
- Black: 38%
So, the black percentage was significant.
If you’re curious, the name Tyrone was 60% black in this data.
My conclusion is that Terrell was a significantly African American name in the 1960s and 1970s.
Was Terrell A Black Name In The 19th And Early 20th Century?
To review whether Terrell was a popular first name in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I looked at several federal censuses.
The first survey after the Civil War and the freeing of slaves was taken in 1870. This was the first time that all African Americans were counted in the census.
There were 239 people in the 1870 census named Terrell. 74 were marked as black and 9 as “mulatto” (not a term we use now).
When I put those categories together, this was 35%.
The percentage dropped to 21% in 1900 out of a total of 629 residents.
By 1940, the black percentage was even smaller. Eight percent of the 2,650 Tyrells were black.
My conclusion is that Terrell was not a common black name in the early nineteenth century.
Most Famous African American Called Terrell
If you’re a football fan, you’ll probably think of Terrell Owens of the Houston Rockets.
Owens was drafted in 1996 by the San Francisco 49ers and became one of the great wide receivers in the game.
But there was also Terrell Davis, who was just one year older than Owens. Davis was a running back with the Denver Broncos.
Other First Names
If you’re curious about some similar names, we’ve got articles on Trey and Tyrone: