The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 124,957 black Americans with Mitchell as their last name. That represented 33% of the total of 384,486 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Mitchell.
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 onwards, all black Americans were included.
10,310 people named Mitchell were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,605 as mixed.
There was a total of 48,355 people with the name.
Mitchell 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 21,674 people with the last name Mitchell as black within a total of 93,423 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 41,589 people named Mitchell as black within a total of 180,227.
Historic Black Figures With The Mitchell Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Mitchell as their last name.
- Born: 1863
- From: Richmond, Virginia
- Died: 1929
John Mitchell Jr. was born into slavery in 1863, a few short years before Emancipation. His mother encouraged his education, and he received several medals for excellence in his schooldays.
He started working as a correspondent for the New York Freeman in 1883.
A year later, he joined a new black newspaper, the Richmond Planet, where he became an editor. There, he frequently published articles against lynching and the Jim Crow laws.
Mitchell founded and served as president of Mechanics Savings Bank in Richmond and was a supporter of black-owned businesses. He also served as a city alderman for two terms.
Other pioneering black bankers
These African Americans were also the early founders of banks:
- Charles Banks (yes, really his name!)
- Leonard Bailey
- Preston Taylor
- Maggie Walker
- Born: 1876
- From: Coosa County, Alabama
- Died: 1952
After Joseph Mitchell completed three years in the army, he settled in St Louis and became the general manager of an insurance company. The Western Union Relief Association had a company newsletter in which Joseph took a keen interest.
When the Western Union went out of business, Joseph and his brother William took over the newspaper. It became the St Louis Argus in 1912. The brothers grew the newspaper into a sizeable publication.
Joseph married Edwina Wright, the daughter of Richard Robert Wright – founder of the first black-owned bank in the North.
Mitchell was a co-founder of the Citizen’s Liberty League, an organization that promoted black interests within the Republican Party. Homer Phillips was another co-founder.
- Born: 1936
- From: Tuskegee, Alabama
- Died: 2004
Peggy Mitchell Peterman grew up in Tuskegee. She was the daughter of a civil rights activist, William P. Mitchell.
She earned a law degree from Howard University where she met her husband, Frank Peterman.
Peterman began working at the St. Petersburg Times in 1965. She played a key role in integrating news about African Americans throughout the newspaper, rather than keeping it confined to a separate page.
She remained at the Times for 31 years.
Peterman received Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the National Association of Black Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation.
Here are just a few other notable black journalists in the Hall Of Fame:
Mitchell In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Mitchell surname from three 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 Mitchell was in May 1867. George Mitchell was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in May 1867 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in November 1914. Luke Mitchell was a Saddler Sergeant in the Ninth Cavalry.
If you are researching military ancestors, there is a free index of these records on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
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 Mitchell was for Thomas Mitchell from Pensacola, Florida. He enlisted in July 1861 at Boston when he was aged 29.
The record shows that Thomas was assigned on April 1863 to the ship Vincennes.
His naval rank was Seaman.
A seaman in the Navy is a sailor who is not an officer.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Boston in April 1862. David was aged 15 and was from Boston, Massachusetts.
He was assigned to the ship Maratanza on March 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
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 Mitchell graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in June 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. James was from Gadston, Alabama.
Paul Mitchell came from Washington, D.C.. He graduated in July 1942 as a fighter pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.