The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 64,031 black Americans with Morris as their last name. That represented 20% of the total of 318,884 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Morris.
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.
7,418 people named Morris were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,242 as mixed.
There was a total of 56,824 people with the name.
Morris 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 16,875 people with the last name Morris as black within a total of 103,566 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 24,687 people named Morris as black within a total of 181,292.
Historic Black Figures With The Morris Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Morris as their last name.
- Born: 1823
- From: Salem, Massachusetts
- Died: 1882
Robert Morris worked as a youth as a servant for Ellis Gray Long, a prominent abolitionist. Loring helped Morris study law and gain admission to the Massachusets Bar in 1847.
Morris was one of the first African American lawyers in the country. He worked on many abolitionist challenges and cases.
Morris worked with the abolitionist Thomas Dalton to improve education conditions for black children in Boston. He also challenged school segregation. He took a legal challenge to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1850.
He was the attorney for Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave captured in Boston whose case brought national uproar when he was sent back to Virginia.
When Shadrach Minkins was also held under the Fugitive Slave Act in Boston, Morris was amongst abolitionists who stormed the courthouse and got him to safety.
He later became a magistrate of Essex County.
Edward H. and William R. Morris
- Born: 1850s
- From: Flemingsburg, Kentucky
- Died: 1920s/1930s
Edward H and William R. Morris were brothers born to a free mother and enslaved father. Their father Hezekiah purchased his freedom and worked as a mattress maker.
Both brothers became lawyers in a time that this was extremely rare for African Americans.
Edward was admitted to the Illinois Bar, while William was admitted to the Tennessee Bar and then the Minnesota Bar in 1890.
William taught at Fisk University and was the only African American on the faculty for several years. He set up a practice in Minneapolis and gained admission to the Minnesota Bar in 1890.
Edward was elected to the Illinois Assembly where he advocated for the legalizing of slave marriages to allow inheritance.
Morris In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Morris 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 Morris was in February 1867. William Morris was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in February 1867 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in October 1914. Otto Morris was a Private in the 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 Morris was for Nathaniel Morris from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in November 1861 at Philadelphia when he was aged 23.
The record shows that Nathaniel was assigned on October 1864 to the ship Somerset.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Barber. 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 New Bedford in Cook. George was aged 32 and was from Trenton, New Jersey.
He was assigned to the ship Quaker City on January 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Cook. 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. They flew single-engine fighter planes or twin-engine bombers. 352 fought in combat.
Harold Morris graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in April 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Harold was from Seattle, Washington.
His combat credits said: Downed 1 Fw-190 on April 1, 1945.
That means that he shot down an aircraft on that date.