The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 12,051 black Americans with Nixon as their last name. That represented 32% of the total of 38,147 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Nixon in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Nixon 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 Nixon 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 124 people named Nixon who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 42 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 3,525 free citizens named Nixon 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.
1,362 people named Nixon were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 224 as mixed.
There was a total of 7,175 people with the name.
Nixon 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 2,589 people with the last name Nixon as black within a total of 11,944 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 4,414 people named Nixon as black within a total of 19,946.
Historic Black Figures With The Nixon Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Nixon as their last name.
- Born: 1822
- From: Norfolk, Virginia
The Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses and travel routes organized by many church and community leaders, civil rights activists, and abolitionists. Thousands of enslaved people were helped to escape from the South.
William Still kept substantial notes on fugitives who were helped on their way through Philadelphia. He published the notes in a book in 1872.
Thomas Nixon and Frederick Nixon were two of over twenty fugitive slaves who were smuggled to freedom on a schooner from the South.
Thomas Nixon was about nineteen and escaped because he feared his owner (a grocer) would sell him.
Frederick Nixon, an older man of about thirty-three, had been kept from seeing his wife and four children for a year. They were enslaved in North Carolina.
You can read the full account in our excerpt on Frederick Nixon and The Underground Railroad.
Sandra Marie Nixon
- Born: 1941
- From: New Orleans
The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode on segregated buses in the South from 1961. They sat in mixed groups to challenge seating segregation.
If they weren’t arrested on the bus, they would disembark and sit in segregated cafes and terminals.
The activists endured violent arrests from local police who would also let gathering mobs attack them. Many of the Freedom Riders were young college students.
Sandra Nixon grew up in a large housing project in New Orleans. She was the first of her nine siblings to attend college at Southern University where she met student members of the Congress on Racial Equality.
They inspired her to join the civil rights movement and participated in sit-ins in the city. She volunteered to get on a train from New Orleans to Jackson, Mississippi. The plan was to depart the train and go into the whites-only ladies room.
Sandra’s father had fought in World War II and feared for his daughter’s life, but her parents could not dissuade her.
When she tried to enter the ladies room, she was arrested and jailed for forty days. After the protests, she returned to university and graduated.
Other freedom riders in the 1960s
Sandra was one of the younger students amongst the freedom riders, but she wasn’t the youngest member. Hezekiah Watkins was just thirteen when he was arrested as part of the protests. Here are some of the other students and leaders:
Nixon In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research.
Here are examples of the Nixon surname from several different military services.
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 Nixon was in March 1899. Frank Nixon was a Private in the Ninth Cavalry. He was stationed in March 1899 at Fort Grant, Arizona Territory.
One of the later entries was in August 1914. Ernest B Nixon was a Private 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 Nixon was for Richard Nixon from Hanover County, North Carolina. He enlisted in June 1862 at Off Wilmington NC when he was aged 43.
The record shows that Richard was assigned on March 1864 to the ship New Berne.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmhand. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New York in September 1863. Charles was aged 21 and was from Princeton, New Jersey.
He was assigned to the ship Muscoota on July 1866.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Laborer/Waiter. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.