The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 31,970 black Americans with Lawrence as their last name. That represented 25% of the total of 129,699 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Lawrence.
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.
2,204 people named Lawrence were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 345 as mixed.
There was a total of 21,557 people with the name.
Lawrence 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 4,976 people with the last name Lawrence as black within a total of 36,341 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 8,599 people named Lawrence as black within a total of 61,678.
Historic Black Figures With The Lawrence Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Lawrence as their last name.
- Born: 1917
- From: Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Died: 2000
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.
Jacob Lawrence moved to Harlem in his early teens, where his mother put him into after-school arts class. Although he left school at sixteen, he attended the Harlem Art Workshop under Charles Alston. The sculptor Augusta Savage got Jacob a scholarship to the American Artists School in the city.
Lawrence’s reputation grew as he depicted black Harlem in crisp bright watercolors. He liked to produce themed collections of paintings, and his work included the lives of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Toussaint L’Overteure (who led the slave revolt in Haiti).
He first gained national attention for his sixty-panel narrative series based on the Great Migration. When it was exhibited in Greenwich Village in 1941, he was the first black artist shown in a New York gallery. He continued to produce works of importance throughout his life.
- Born: 1935
- From: Chicago, Illinois
- Died: 1967
Robert Lawrence enrolled in Bradley University in 1952 where he studied chemistry. He joined the Air Force ROTC and excelled as a cadet commander. The Air Force recruited him as a 2nd Lieutenant when he graduated in 1956.
Lawrence became an instructor pilot while studying for a PhD at Ohio State University, which he completed in 1965. He logged 2,000 hours in fighter jets and tested the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.
In 1867, Lawrence was selected as an astronaut for the Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) program. This makes him the first African American astronaut. The picture below shows him at the press conference announcing the MOL astronauts.
Major Lawrence was asked if his achievement was important for race relations. The young astronaut gave a civil – but pointed – answer.
No, I don’t think so. It’s another one of those things that we look forward to in civil rights: normal progression.Maj. Robert Lawrence
Tragically, he was killed in a training flight that year. Many of his fellow astronauts in the program went on to fly on the Space Shuttle.
In 2020, NASA named an asteroid after Robert Lawrence, a pioneer who died too young.
Other black astronauts
- Michael Anderson (died in the Columbia disaster)
- Bernard Harris (first black astronaut to walk in space)
- Winston Scott (two spacewalks)
- Stephanie Wilson (three space flights)
Lawrence In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Lawrence surname from 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 Lawrence was in June 1867. Frank E. Lawrence was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in June 1867 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in January 1915. George W. Lawrence was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry.
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 Lawrence was for Ohio Lawrence from New Orleans, Louisiana. He enlisted in August 23 1862 at New Orleans when he was aged 19.
The record shows that Ohio was assigned on July 1 1863 to the ship Miami.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Mason. 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 Camden in September 10 1864. Jacob was aged 22 and was from Columbia, Pennsylvania.
He was assigned to the ship Anemone on June 7 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Wheelwright. His naval rank was Officers Steward.
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.
Erwin Lawrence graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in July 1942. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Erwin was from Cleveland, Ohio.
Robert Lawrence came from Bloomfield, New Jersey. He graduated in June 1944 as a fighter pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.