Jackson As An African American Last Name

There were 375,576 black Americans with Jackson as their last name in the 2010 U.S. Census. This was 53% of the total number with that name in the country.

This article looks at:

  • 19th and early 20th-century black census numbers for the name
  • notable African American people named Jackson
  • early black military records and how to find them

Jackson 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. It was left blank to denote white, b for black, or m for mulatto. The third term is the language of the time. I will use mixed in the rest of this article.

If you are researching your black Jackson ancestors in census archives, be sure to search under both categories. Do not rely on the census taker recording this correctly.

1850 Federal Census

There were 5,084 people named Jackson who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 1,976 were recorded as mixed.

Because they are in the main federal census, these are free citizens.

There was a total of 43,869 free citizens named Jackson that year.

1860 Federal Census

The 1860 federal census recorded 4,724 people named Jackson as black, and 1,799 as mixed.

That is out of a total of 53,514 free citizens.

Of course, census-taking would change after the Civil War.

After The Civil War

1865 newly freed family in Richmond, Virginia

The 1870 census was the first after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. At last, all African Americans are included.

Those who were omitted in 1860 because they were enslaved are now in this census. Here are the numbers.

45,873 people named Jackson were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 6,301 as mixed.

The increase is clear. The overall total (all Americans) was 110,064.

The 1880 census recorded 67,782 as black and 10,258 as mixed out of a total of 147,401.

Now we jump to the end of the 19th century – or the beginning of the 20th.

Jackson In The 1900 And 1940 Census

In 1900, the mixed category was dropped. However, not all enumerators followed those instructions. I have found a small number of records where “m” was still used in the box for color.

I will focus here on the black numbers.

The 1900 census recorded 107,227 people named Jackson as black within a total of 209,652.

There were 149,521 people named Jackson recorded in the 1940 census as black within a total of 331,780.

Historic Black Figures With The Jackson Surname

Here are some notable African Americans in history with Jackson as their last name.

Thomas and John Jackson

  • Born: 1800
  • From: Greenville, Jersey

Thomas and John Vreeland Jackson were brothers who were freed in the late 1820s. They bought land and worked as oystermen on the Hudson River.

The brothers made their home a station on the underground railroad by hiding fugitive slaves on their way to freedom.

The Underground Railroad was a vast network of secret routes and safe houses organized by many abolitionists and rights activists. It helped thousands of enslaved people escape from the South.

Robert Jackson

The abolitionist William Still published the notes and testimonies of fugitives from his time as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

There is a first-hand account from a Robert Jackson of how he and his companions were captured while fleeing, a gunfight in a barn, and how he made his final escape.

You can read the excerpt of Jackson’s account here. This is the illustration from the book:

Fanny Jackson Coppin

Born: 1837
Died: 1913
From: Washington D.C.

When Fanny Jackson was twelve, her aunt paid for her freedom for a sum that would be over $4,700 today. She worked as a servant and used her spare money to pay for private studies.

Fanny married Levin Jenkins Coppin in 1881 and supported her pastor husband in his missionary work in South Africa.

Fanny attended Oberlin College in Ohio in 1860. Oberlin was the first college to accept black women, and Fanny studied Latin, Greek, and Mathematics. During that time, she provided evening classes to teach black adults to read and write.

When she graduated in 1865, she was only the third black woman to obtain a degree in higher education.

She took a teaching position at a black college in Philadelphia and became the principal in 1869. Fanny was the first African American woman to serve as a school principal.

During her adult life, Fanny spoke at many political rallies to advocate for black education. In 1893, the Chicago Columbian Exposition hosted a major women’s gathering. Fanny was one of three African American women to address the gathering.

Fannie Barrier Williams was one of the others to speak there.

Luther Porter Jackson

  • Born: 1892
  • Died: 1950
  • From: Lexington, Kentucky

Luther Jackson was from a family of twelve children. He started graduate studies in 1914 and got his PhD in 1937. He wrote a seminal history of black life in Virginia from 1830-1860.

Aside from his work as an educator, Jackson was a strong activist against Jim Crow laws in Virginia and an advocate for voter registration.

He worked with Thurgood Marshall to challenge inequal play between black and white teachers.

Cases of Thurgood Marshall

The renowned civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall worked on many important legal challenges against discrimination.

He worked with notable black activists including:

Jackson In Black Military Records

You may be surprised at the amount of genealogy information available from military records. Here are examples of the surname from three different military services:

  • Buffalo soldiers
  • Black civil war sailors
  • Tuskegee airmen

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 entries for Jackson was in 1867.

Samuel Jackson was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in 1867 at Fort Learmouth, Kansas.

One of the last entries was in 1914. Julius Jackson was a Trumpeter in the Ninth Cavalry that year.

If you want to do your own research, there is a free index of these military records on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

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 the surname concerned Charles Jackson from Cambridge, Maryland. He enlisted in 1861 aged 24.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter. His naval rank was Coal Heaver.

Coal heavers in the Navy shoveled coal into the furnace in the engine room.

One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted in 1864. Abraham was aged 20 and was from New London, Connecticut.

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

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

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. They flew single-engine fighter planes or twin-engine bombers. 352 fought in combat.

Melvin Jackson graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant from the Tuskegee Institute in 1942. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Melvin was from Warrenton, Virginia.

His combat credits said: 

Downed 1 Me-109 on June 9, 1944

Leonard Jackson came from Fort Worth, Texas. He trained as a fighter pilot and graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1943.

His combat credits said: 

Downed 1 Fw-190 on February 7, 1944;

Downed 1 Me-109 on July 26, 1944;

Downed 1 Me-109 on July 27, 1944

This means that Lieutenant Jackson shot down three enemy plans in combat. That’s one of the best track records that I’ve seen.