Knowles As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 3,753 black Americans with Knowles as their last name. That represented 13% of the total of 28,460 entries.

This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Knowles.

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.

120 people named Knowles were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 26 as mixed.

There was a total of 5,579 people with the name.

Knowles 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 489 people with the last name Knowles as black within a total of 9,458 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 1,135 people named Knowles as black within a total of 15,632.

Historic Black Figures With The Knowles Surname

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

Annie Knowles Fisher

  • Born: 1867
  • From: Columbia, Missouri
  • Died: 1938

Annie Knowles worked as a cook from an early age for wealthy families and college kitchens. After she married a local reverend, William Fisher, she built a hugely successful catering business.

By the 1930s she owned a restaurant, twenty properties in downtown Columbia, and a farm that supplied her cooking produce. Aside from catering to large banquets, Annie ran a mail-order business for her famed beaten biscuits.

A local newspaper estimated her wealth to be $100K in 1927. That would make her a millionaire today.

Knowles In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Knowles surname from military service.

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 Knowles was in May 1899. Jose B Knowles was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in May 1899 at Galveston.

One of the later entries was in March 1902. Charles Knowles was a Private in the U.S. 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.

Knowles In The Freedmen’s Bureau Records

The Freedmen’s Bureau was established after the Civil War to help newly freed African Americans. You can read more in our article on researching the Freedmen archives.

There are over 210 records for Knowles in the archives. Here are some of the first names:

  • Bella
  • Charlotte
  • Steward
  • Roland