King As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 105,930 black Americans with King as their last name. That represented 23% of the total of 465,422 entries.

This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named King in the last three centuries.

We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.

King 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 King 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 848 people named King who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 303 were recorded as mixed.

Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.

There was a total of 43,186 free citizens named King 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.

12,840 people named King were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,615 as mixed.

There was a total of 85,253 people with the name.

King 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 26,619 people with the last name King as black within a total of 150,047 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 39,393 people named King as black within a total of 242,415.

Historic Black Figures With The King Surname

Here are some notable African American people in history.

Susie King

  • Born: 1848
  • From: Liberty County, Georgia
  • Died: 1912

Susie Baker’s grandmother ensured that she received an education from literate neighbors when it was illegal in Georgia for slaves to be taught.

At the start of the Civil War, she and her family sought refuge from the Union fleet at St Catherine’s Island. There, the thirteen-year-old girl opened the first free black school in Georgia.

She also taught black soldiers in the 33rd Colored Troops to read and write. She then became a nurse to help the wounded in Union camps.

After the War, she opened several schools for black children and published her memoirs.

Her first husband was a soldier named Edward King. After he died, she married Russell Taylor. She is sometimes referred to as Susie Baker King or Susie King Taylor.

Susie Baker King

John Quill Taylor King

  • Born: 1921
  • From: Memphis, Tennessee
  • Died: 2011

John Quill Taylor’s father had the same name as his father who was U.S. Army doctor. John’s father died when he was just two years old, and his mother married Charles B. King, an insurance agent. John took the full name of John Quill Taylor King.

The family moved to Austin, Texas, where C.B. King intended to buy an established funeral home. When that purchase fell through, he bought a property and opened the third black-owned mortuary in the city in 1932.

When John Taylor King graduated from Fisk University with a degree in mathematics, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He had attained the rank of Captain by the time he left active service.

C.B. King had died in 1941 but John and his mother continued to run the funeral home. John also pursued a successful academic career, becoming a professor of mathematics and obtaining a Ph.D. in 1957.

That was two years after John had expanded the family mortuary business by purchasing a long-established black-owned funeral home in the same neighborhood.

Dr. John Taylor King had remained in the Army Reserve and rose to the position of Brigadier General. He was also appointed President of Huston-Tillotson College in 1965 and served in the position for twenty-three years.

Lonnie King

  • Born: 1936
  • From: Arlington, Georgia
  • Died: 2019

Lonnie King was one of the co-founders of the Atlanta Student Movement. He attended Morehouse College and joined with other young activists from black colleges in Atlanta.

They organized the publication of the Appeal for Human Rights by Spelman College student Roslyn Pope. This was a powerful statement against the levels of discrimination in the region.

Lonnie was involved in marches and sit-ins through the 1960 and 1961. The demonstrators were joined by Dr Martin Luther King in October 1960, who was arrested and jailed.

The result of two years of effort was desegregation of restaurants throughout the city. Business owners also agreed to rehire black workers who were fired during the protests.

King In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the King surname from three different military services:

  • Black civil war sailors
  • Buffalo soldiers
  • 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 military entries for King was in June 1867. Randall King was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in June 1867 at Fort Leavenworth and Boston, Massachusetts.

One of the later entries was in January 1915. David King was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry.

If you are researching military ancestors, there is a free index of these records on and 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.

James King

One of the earliest entries for King was for James King from Portland, Maine. He enlisted in June 1861 at Boston, Massachussetts when he was aged 28.

The record shows that James was assigned on May 1863 to the ship St. Lawrence. His occupation before enlisting was as a Steward. His naval rank was Landsman.

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

Benjamin King

One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at White River in July 1863. Benjamin was aged 50 and was from Gallatin County, Kentucky.

He was assigned to the ship Great Western on June 1865. His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer/Laborer. His naval rank was Coal Heaver.

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

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. 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.

Earl King graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in August 1942. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Earl was from Bessemer, Alabama.

Celestus King came from Los Angeles, California. He graduated in April 1944 as a bomber pilot.

You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.