Motley As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 4,218 black Americans with Motley as their last name. That represented 41% of the total of 10,274 entries.

This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Motley.

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.

578 people named Motley were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 72 as mixed.

There was a total of 1,540 people with the name.

Motley 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 1,176 people with the last name Motley as black within a total of 2,736 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 1,567 people named Motley as black within a total of 4,705.

Historic Black Figures With The Motley Surname

Here are some notable African Americans in history with Motley as their last name.

Archibald Motley

  • Born: 1891
  • From: New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Died: 1981

Archibald Motley grew up in Chicago and studied art at the Institute of Chicago where he graduated in 1918. He was primarily a portrait painter in the 1920s and focused on African American subjects in Chicago.

Motley’s paintings captured the differing skin tones of women of mixed ancestry. His vividly colored crowd scenes were inspired by jazz culture. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1929 and studied in France for a year.

Although he never lived in New York, he is considered a major influence on the Harlem Renaissance.

The Harlem Renaissance after the First World War was a period when African American art, literature, and music flourished around Harlem.

Painters, poets, writers, and musicians established a creative hub of black culture in the United States. The movement was hugely influential on the development of black literature and art through the twentieth century and today.

Constance Baker Motley

  • Born: 1921
  • From: New Haven, Connecticut
  • Died: 2005

Constance Baker Motley excelled academically and earned a scholarship to Fisk University where she graduated with honors in 1943. She went on to attend Columbia Law School. She was one of a very few number of women and African Americans in her class.

She began her legal career as a law clerk for Thurgood Marshall at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She worked on many landmark civil rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education.

She also argued several cases before the Supreme Court. She became the first African American woman to do so. In 1964, she became the first African American woman to be elected to the New York State Senate, and she later served as Manhattan Borough President.

Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her to the federal bench in 1966. This made her the first African American woman to serve as a federal judge. Constance was a role model and mentor to younger black female judges, like Inez Smith Reid who was first appointed to the D.C. Court of Appeals in 1995.

Motley In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Motley surname from military service.

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 Motley was in April 1873. John Motley was a Trumpeter in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry. He was stationed in April 1873 at Saint Louis, Missouri.

One of the later entries was in June 1915. Calvin Motley was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry.

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.

Motley In The Freedmen’s Bureau Records

The Freedmen’s Bureau was established after the Civil War to help newly freed African Americans. You can read more in our article on researching the Freedmen archives.

There are over 260 records for Motley in the archives. Here are some of the first names:

  • Fenton
  • Joshua
  • Rebecka
  • Skidmore