The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 49,441 black Americans with Morgan as their last name. That represented 17% of the total of 286,280 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Morgan in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Morgan 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 Morgan 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 470 people named Morgan who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 261 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 28,325 free citizens named Morgan 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.
6,338 people named Morgan were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,032 as mixed.
There was a total of 52,083 people with the name.
Morgan 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 13,074 people with the last name Morgan as black within a total of 91,934 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 17,799 people named Morgan as black within a total of 149,111.
Historic Black Figures With The Morgan Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Morgan as their last name.
- Born: 1859
- From: Stafford County, Virginia
- Died: 1929
Clement Morgan’s family moved to Washington D.C. when they were emancipated in 1863. When Clement finished high school, he got a teaching position in St Louis at a black school.
Committed to his own education, he worked as a barber to fund his primary and law degree from Harvard. While at Harvard, Morgan took first prize for oratory by beating W.E.B. Du Bois into second place.
After graduation, he started a legal practice in Boston and took on many civil rights cases.
Morgan represented black parents in Massachusetts to get proper non-segregated schooling. He was also active in trying to ban the highly prejudicial film Birth of a Nation.
Morgan joined W.E.B. Du Bois in establishing the Niagara Movement for civil rights. Although this organization didn’t get far, many members including Morgan joined and built up the NAACP.
Other founders of the Niagara Movement
Here are some other co-founders:
Other Boston activists
Boston had some other remarkable black activists:
- Born: 1877
- From: Harrison County, Kentucky
- Died: 1963
Garrett Morgan went to school in Kentucky until he was fourteen and then left to find work in Ohio. When he was fixing sewing machines in Cleveland, he started working on inventions to improve them.
Morgan was also a shrewd businessman. He sold his first invention for $50 in 1901. This was a belt fastener for the machines.
More inventions followed, and he took out his first patent in 1912. Morgan opened shops in the early 1900s for sewing machine repair and for general tailoring.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was in 1916 when saving trapped men in a tunnel explosion under Lake Erie.
A rescuer woke Morgan in the middle of the night and asked for help. He and his brother used a form of gas mask invented by Morgan to survive the fumes in the tunnel and carry men to safety.
Other black inventors
Check out these other early African American inventors:
Morgan In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Morgan 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 Morgan was in August 1867. Wilson Morgan was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in August 1867 at Fort Gibson, Connecticut.
One of the later entries was in May 1914. Richard Morgan was a Cook 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 Morgan was for William Morgan from Chowan County, North Carolina. He enlisted in July 1862 at Plymouth, North Carolina when he was aged 17.
The record shows that William was assigned on March 1864 to the ship John L. Lockwood.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Hostler. A hostler in those times was someone who looked after horses. Usually, they were employed by innkeepers to take care of horses left in stables attached to the inn.
William’s naval rank was 3rd Class Boy. This was the rank given to young men who were under eighteen when they enlisted.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New Bedford in December 1864. Noah was aged 21 and was from Fayetteville, North Carolina.
He was assigned to the ship Pampero on October 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Fruit Storekeeper. His naval rank was Ordinary Seaman.
An ordinary seaman in the Navy is an apprentice who serves on the deck.
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.
John Morgan graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in September 1942. He qualified as a fighter pilot. John was from Cartersville, Georgia.
William Morgan came from Yukon, Pennsylvania. He graduated in September 1945 as a fighter pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.