Martin As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 110,734 black Americans with Martin as their last name. That represented 16% of the total of 702,625 entries.

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

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

Martin 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 Martin 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 731 people named Martin who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 467 were recorded as mixed.

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

There was a total of 63,654 free citizens named Martin 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.

13,631 people named Martin were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 2,258 as mixed.

There was a total of 121,200 people with the name.

Martin 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 28,229 people with the last name Martin as black within a total of 212,928 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 41,847 people named Martin as black within a total of 361,762.

Historic Black Figures With The Martin Surname

Here are some notable African American people in history with Martin as their last name.

John Sella Martin

  • Born: 1832
  • From: Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Died: 1875

John Sella Martin was sold away from his mother and sister when he was six years old.

When he attempted to visit his mother in his teens, Martin was jailed. A white prisoner helped him study grammar and history, and taught him about freedom in the North.

Martin forged travel papers and arrived by steamer in Chicago in 1856. He eventually settled in Boston where he became a Baptist minister and an abolitionist.

Martin traveled to London where he made anti-slavery speeches and raised funds for black education. His wife Sarah established the Fugitive Aid Society to provide escaped slaves with food and clothing.

After the Civil War, Martin moved to Louisiana and was elected to the state legislature. After he lost his seat to the Democrats, he worked as a postmaster and wrote for a Louisiana newspaper.

Herbert Woodward Martin

  • Born: 1933
  • From: Alabama

Herbert Martin was born in Alabama but was twelve when his family moved to Ohio. He graduated from the University of Toledo in 1964.

He has published ten works of poetry (at my last count) and seven musical works (libretti). His poems can be found in many anthologies.

Martin has taught for many years at the University of Dayton, while also taking visiting lectureships in the United States and Europe. He has four honorary doctorates and has won many literary awards.

Other black poets

Here are some other notable African American poets in history:

Shirley Martin

  • Born: About 1949
  • From: Montgomery, Alabama

Despite the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, schools in Montgomery continued to be segregated.

An activist couple, Arlam and Johnnie Carr, won a landmark case that year for their son to attend the Sidney Lanier High School.

Shirley Martin was one of three students who transferred to the school as the first black pupils. Sanders had attended the all-black George Washington Carver High School. She entered Sidney Lanier as a senior.

This made it the first High School in Montgomery to be integrated. This is how a local newspaper reported events:

Three Negro teenagers, two girls, and a boy, became the first Negro students to attend Sidney Lanier High School in the long history of the school and they entered into the strange new world without mishap.

Alabama Journal, September 1964 (newspaper no longer published)

Arlam Carr Jr and Susie Sanders were the two other teenagers. You can find a photo of the two girls here.

Martin In Black Military Records

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

  • Buffalo soldiers
  • Black civil war sailors
  • 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 Martin was in July 1867. Charles Martin was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in July 1867 at Fort Harker, Kansas.

One of the later entries was in May 1914. Buster Martin was a Corporal in the Tenth Cavalry. You can see some of the soldiers of this regiment in the photo above.

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.

Charles Martin

One of the earliest entries for Martin was for Charles Martin from Richmond, Virginia. He enlisted in August 1863 at Cairo when he was aged 35.

The record shows that Charles was assigned on December 1863 to the ship New National.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Laborer. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.

“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.

Stephen Martin

One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Philadelphia in May 1861. Stephen was aged 21 and was from Philadelphia, Pennsyvlania.

He was assigned to the ship Richmond on June 1865.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter. His naval rank was Landsman.

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

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.

Robert Martin graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in January 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Robert was from Dubuque, Iowa.

August Martin came from Bronx, New York. He graduated in September 1945 as a fighter pilot.

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