The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 40,213 black Americans with Mason as their last name. That represented 25% of the total of 160,213 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Mason.
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.
6,276 people named Mason were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,317 as mixed.
There was a total of 35,473 people with the name.
Mason 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 12,951 people with the last name Mason as black within a total of 58,250 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 15,252 people named Mason as black within a total of 88,991.
Historic Black Figures With The Mason Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Mason as their last name.
- Born: 1818
- From: Hancock County, Georgia
- Died: 1891
Biddy Mason was born enslaved in Georgia. She learned to practice herbal medicine, livestock care, and midwifery from other women before she was sold to a family called Smith in Mississippi.
The Smiths converted to Mormonism in 1847 and brought Biddy when they traveled to Utah and then to California. By the laws of California, Biddy and the other enslaved workers should have been freed, but Smith did not do so.
Instead, Smith planned to move to Texas and sell his slaves. Biddy had three daughters by then and was afraid they would all be separated.
Two free black men set out to help the family and went to court in Los Angeles. The judge ruled in Biddy’s favor and she and her daughters secured their freedom.
One of the men who helped Biddy was Charles Owens, a wealthy young businessman who ran a transport company with his father. Biddy and her family were taken in by Charles’ father and her daughter Ellen later married Charles.
Biddy worked as a midwife in Los Angeles and invested her earnings in land. She became a wealthy woman but was known for funding charities, schools, and churches for the black community in LA.
Charles Harrison Mason
- Born: 1866
- From: Shelby County, Tennessee
- Died: 1961
Charles Mason was born into a sharecropping family. As a teenager, he and his father contracted tuberculosis. With little access to medical facilities in the black community, his father died. A weakened Charles moved with his family to Arkansas where his mother and sisters asked the local Baptist church to pray for him.
When Charles recovered, he devoutly believed that he had been healed to become a Baptist pastor. He was twenty-seven when he started his ministry.
Mason was drawn to a mystical form of evangelism known as Holiness. This was not widely accepted by his Baptist leaders, and he was expelled from his local church in 1896. With other like-minded believers, Mason co-founded a new church.
In 1907, he visited the William Seymour’s Azusa Street Revival in L.A. which became famous for attendees abruptly falling to the floor and speaking in tongues. Mason too went through that experience.
He returned to Mississippi and once again he was expelled from his church. Mason started a new Pentecostal church in Memphis, the Church of God In Christ. He grew the church by sending evangelists to preach to African Americans moving north as part of the Great Migration.
His church is now the largest Pentecostal church in the United States.
Mason In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Mason 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 Mason was in December 1867. Benjamin Mason was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in December 1867 at Baltimore, Maryland.
One of the later entries was in January 1915. Arthur Mason was a Private in the U.S. Ninth 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 Mason was for Frederick Mason from Stafford County, Virginia. He enlisted in May 5 1859 at Philadelphia when he was aged 26.
The record shows that Frederick was assigned on January 1 1900 to the ship .
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.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Washington in October 5 1861. Harrison was aged 40 and was from Baltimore, Maryland.
He was assigned to the ship Hetzel on March 31 1864.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Tanner. His naval rank was Officers Cook.
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.
James Mason graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in July 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. James was from Monroe, Louisiana.
Thurston Mason came from Chicago, Illinois. He graduated in October 1943 as a Liaison pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.