This article looks at whether Winston is a typically African American first name.
I used census records from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to see it was historically popular in black communities.
Of course, the more recent censuses don’t publish full names like that for privacy reasons. So, I had to look for alternative sources to get the current picture in recent years.
Winston In The 19th And Early 20th Century
To review whether Winston was a common black name in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I looked at several federal censuses.
The 1870 federal census was taken after the emancipation of slaves. This was the first census that counted all African Americans.
There were 1,114 people named Winston in the 1870 census.
The census takers marked residents as either white, black, or mixed (“mulatto” in those times).
When I’m researching African Americans in the 1870 census, I always include the latter two categories. The census takers were not always correct in how they categorized non-white residents.
Regardless, we can say that the black percentage was somewhere from 47% to 53%. So, about half of the population named Winston were African American in 1870.
The mixed category was dropped in the 1900 census. By then, the total number of Winstons had nearly doubled to 2,048.
The black proportion was under half at 43%.
By 1940, the total number was over ten thousand (10,101 to be exact). But the black proportion had dropped significantly to just fifteen percent.
My conclusion is that Winston was a relatively common first name amongst African Americans in the late 19th century. But it started dropping in popularity among black communities in the early 20th century.
Winston 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 207 people named Winston who applied for a mortgage. This was the ethnic breakdown:
- White: 45%
- Black: 32%
- Asian & Pacific Islands: 17%
- Hispanic: 6%
As you can see, the black proportion was about a third of the total.
I conclude that Winston was not a predominantly African American name in the 1960s and 1970s. However, it was still commonly found in black communities.
Is Winston A Typically 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 2003 and 2016. The table below is the summary of my review.
The column headed “Winston” was the total number of students with the name that I found across the schools with uploaded yearbooks.
The name was exclusively male. One student in Georgia was Asian and one was Hispanic.
As you can see, the name Winston was more likely to belong to African American students in Louisiana.
However, it was more likely to belong to white students in Georgia and Mississippi.
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 Winston.
There was only one student in the search results, and he wasn’t African American. The kid was actually called Winston Churchill.
Why were there so few schools in this survey?
Of course, there are more than fourteen 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 Winston.
It’s also possible that a school has a yearbook online but has nobody by the name of Winston. 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.
Winston reminds me of the name Trevor in that many people would immediately assume that they are white names.
Check out our look at whether Trevor is a typically African American first name.
I also looked at other “on” names i.e. names ending in “on”. Check these out: