The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 40,964 black Americans with Jefferson as their last name. That represented 74% of the total of 55,179 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Jefferson.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1850 and 1860, only free African Americans were recorded in the census. The many enslaved were omitted.
From 1870 onward, all black Americans were included.
4,655 people named Jefferson were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 630 as mixed.
There was a total of 7,863 people with the name.
Jefferson In The 1900 And 1940 Census
The mixed category was dropped from the census in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.
The 1900 census recorded 10,872 people with the last name Jefferson as black within a total of 15,215 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 15,383 people named Jefferson as black within a total of 23,331.
Historic Black Figures With The Jefferson Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Jefferson as their last name.
- Born: 1908
- From: Washington, DC
- Died: 2002
The Harlem Renaissance after the First World War was a period when African American art, literature, and music flourished around Harlem.
Painters, poets, writers, and musicians established a creative hub of black culture in the United States. The movement was hugely influential on the development of black literature and art through the twentieth century and today.
Louise Jefferson’s father was a calligrapher for the Treasury Department who encouraged her interest in art. She studied art and lithography at Howard University, Hunter College, and Columbia University.
Jefferson did freelance work for the YWCA, the NAACP, and commercial and academic publishing houses. She became artistic director for Friendship Press in 1942 until she retired from the organization in 1960.
Jefferson designed book covers and maps throughout her career. When she retired from Friendship Press, she traveled across Africa and drew further inspiration for her work.
She is considered part of the Harlem Renaissance. She was friends with Aaron Douglas, Langton Hughes, and roomed with Pauli Murray.
- Born: 1927
- From: Pittsburg, Texas
- Died: 2010
Mildred Faye Jefferson was the daughter of a Methodist minister and a schoolteacher. After completing a masters in biology at Tufts University, she enrolled at Harvard Medical School. In 1951, she was the first black woman to graduate from the institution.
Jefferson joined the Boston University Medical Center as their first female doctor. She spent many years there as a surgeon.
Aside from being a pioneer as a black female doctor, Jefferson was also known for her anti-abortion stance. Her conservative views extended to being against the Equal Rights Amendment and social welfare programs.
Jefferson In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Jefferson 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 Jefferson was in September 1867. Charles Jefferson was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in September 1867 at Fort Riley (Kansas) and Cincinnati, Ohio.
One of the later entries was in March 1914. Arthur Jefferson was a Private 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 Jefferson was for James Jefferson from Charleston, South Carolina. He enlisted in September 9 1862 at Port Royal when he was aged 28.
The record shows that James was assigned on June 2 1864 to the ship Flag.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Hostler. His naval rank was 2nd Class Boy.
“2nd Class Boy” was a rank assigned to young men who were under eighteen when they enlisted.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Jersey City in August 18 1864. Thomas was aged 25 and was from Jersey City, New Jersey.
He was assigned to the ship Seneca on October 6 1864.
His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.
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.
Alexander Jefferson graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in January 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Alexander was from Detroit, Michigan.
Thomas Jefferson came from Chicago, Illinois. He graduated in May 1944 as a fighter pilot.
His combat credits said: Downed 2 Me-109s on April 26, 1945
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.