The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 64,042 black Americans with Jordan as their last name. That represented 31% of the total of 208,403 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Jordan in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Jordan 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. There were three categories: white, black, and mulatto. The third term is the language of the time, and I will use mixed in this article.
If you are researching your black Jordan ancestors in census archives, be sure to check the two non-white categories. Do not assume that the people recording the information were always correct.
1850 Federal Census
There were 266 people named Jordan who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 99 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 10,830 free citizens named Jordan that year. There would be one more census in 1860 before the Civil War.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. All African Americans were included.
Those who were omitted in 1850 and 1860 because they were enslaved were now recorded.
6,625 people named Jordan were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 811 as mixed.
There was a total of 25,874 people with the name.
Jordan In The 1900 And 1940 Census
The mixed category was dropped in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.
The 1900 census recorded 12,395 people with the last name Jordan as black within a total of 48,860 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 17,961 people named Jordan as black within a total of 83,425.
Historic Black Figures With The Jordan Surname
Here are some notable African American people in history with Jordan as a last name.
- Born: 1935
- From: Atlanta, Georgia
- Died: 2021
Vernon Jordan was the only black student in his class at De Pauw University, Indiana.
After graduating, he studied for a law degree at Howard University in 1960. He joined an Atlanta law firm heavily involved in civil rights.
He subsequently became the Georgia field director of the NAACP and led boycotts and voter registration drives. During the 1970s, Jordan was a major figure in pushing for economic progress for African Americans.
He survived an assassination attempt in 1980 to become a senior advisor to President Clinton’s administration.
Vernon Jordan died in recent years. The many obituaries include this one in The Washington Post.
- Born: 1936
- From: Houston, Texas
- Died: 1996
Barbara Jordan graduated from the Boston University Law School in 1959. In 1966, she was the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972.
Jordan was a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of Richard Nixon.
Her address, which focused on the constitution, is regarded as one of the greatest political speeches in American history.
Jordan was twenty-five years younger than William Bryant, the African American chief judge of the D.C. district court who had ordered the surrender of Nixon’s tapes.
Jordan had studied debating at Texas State University under Thomas Freeman, the renowned African American debating coach. He gave the eulogy at her funeral in 1996, four years before he died.
Other firsts in legislature
If you want to learn about more pioneers in politics, here are a few:
- John Patterson Green, first black Ohio senator
- Grace Towns Hamilton, first black woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly
- Gwen Giles, first black woman elected to the Missouri state senate
- Frederick Madison Roberts, first black representative in the California General Assembly
- John W.E. Thomas, first black representative in the Illinois General Assembly
Jordan In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research.
Here are examples of the Jordan 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 Jordan was in December 1867.
Jason Jordan was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in December 1867 at Wilson Creek, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in July 1914. Hal Jordan was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry.
Researching archives for buffalo soldiers
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 Jordan was for Joseph Jordan from Norfolk, Virginia. He enlisted in June 1861 at New York when he was aged 33.
The record shows that Joseph was assigned on March 1864 to the ship Nansemond.
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.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Off Vicksburg in June 1862. Charles was aged 27 and was from La Grange, Georgia.
He was assigned to the ship Owasco on June 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Teamster. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
A teamster in the 19th century was someone who drove a wagon behind a team of horses, mules, or oxen.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
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. The photograph above (from the Library of Congress) shows a class in session.
They flew single-engine fighter planes or twin-engine bombers. 352 fought in combat.
William Jordan graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in October 1943. He qualified as a Liaison pilot. William was from Chicago, Illinois.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.