The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 35,669 black Americans with Murray as their last name. That represented 19% of the total of 184,910 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Murray in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Murray 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 Murray 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 321 people named Murray who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 129 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 11,858 free citizens named Murray 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.
2,851 people named Murray were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 452 as mixed.
There was a total of 30,635 people with the name.
Murray 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 6,222 people with the last name Murray as black within a total of 59,103 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 15,065 people named Murray as black within a total of 113,547.
Historic Black Figures With The Murray Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Murray as their last name.
- Born: 1813
- From: Denton, Maryland
- Died: 1882
Anna Murray’s parents were manumitted (freed from slavery) a month before she was born, which allowed her to grow up free. She worked as a housekeeper and a laundress.
She met Frederick Douglass when her laundry work took her to the docks where Douglass worked as a caulker. She encouraged Douglass in his plans to escape slavery and helped him financially.
When he escaped to New York, she followed and they married in 1838. Anna continued to support her husband and their growing family while Douglass traveled and spoke at many meetings.
The renown of Frederick Douglass is not shared by his first wife. However, she was an essential part of her husband’s legacy.
- Born: 1859
- From: Cleveland, Ohio
- Died: 1950
Freedom H.M. Murray pursued his studies while working in his grandfather’s painting firm. He learned about the publishing industry by working at a newspaper while also teaching.
Murray set up a real estate business in Virginia and a printing company with his brother John. He was strongly involved in civil rights activism and worked with leaders like W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B Wells.
Freeman Murray founded several newspapers with a strong focus on black empowerment. He often criticized the less radical stances of Booker T. Washington in his columns.
Aside from his activism, Murray was also a significant art critic who demanded that African Americans be represented seriously in American art.
He was a co-founder with W.E.B. DuBois of the Niagara Movement in 1906, which preceded the NAACP. He is the third man standing in the photograph below.
Other founders of the Niagara Movement
Here are some other co-founders:
Other prominent black newspaper publishers
Here are some more black publishers who founded newspapers that covered and promoted civil rights.
- Born: 1910
- From: Baltimore, Maryland
- Died: 1985
Anna “Pauli” Murray was raised by her maternal aunts and grandparents in North Carolina. Pauli graduated from Hunter College in New York in 1933.
Murray was traveling on a segregated bus with a friend when the two moved from broken seats at the back to the white seats at the front. They were jailed when they refused to move back.
The Workers’ Defense League, a socialist organization, paid their fine. Murray started working with the WDL and campaigned against racial injustices.
This inspired her to study law, and she graduated first in her class at Howard.
Murray coined the term “Jane Crow” to symbolize the unique effects of segregation on black women. Her 1950 book on state segregation laws heavily influenced Thurgood Marshall and the legal approach of the NAACP.
Always independent-minded, Murray criticized the NAACP leadership for relegating women to the back offices. In later life, she was the first black woman to become an Episcopal priest.
Pauli Murray had several relationships with women through her life. She also believed that she was assigned the wrong gender back in an era when little was known about such issues.
Murray In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Murray 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 Murray was in 1868. Charles Murray was a Saddler Sergeant in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in 1868 at Fort Riley, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in 1914. Loraine Murray was a Trumpeter in the Tenth 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 Murray was for Nelson Murray from Grand Lake Landing, Arkansas. He enlisted in 1862 at Judge Torrence / Cairo when he was aged 17.
The record shows that Nelson was assigned on December 1864 to the ship Judge Torrence.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Fieldhand. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
Daniel A Murray
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Newport in 1865. Daniel A was aged 20 and was from Providence, Rhode Island.
He was assigned to the ship Santee on June 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Basketmaker. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.
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.
Louis Murray graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in May 1945. He qualified as a fighter pilot.
Louis was from Gary, Indiana.