O’Neal As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 13,995 black Americans with O’Neal as their last name. That represented 29% of the total of 47,979 entries.

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

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.

1,071 people named O’Neal were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 105 as mixed.

There was a total of 11,809 people with the name.

O’Neal 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 2,701 people with the last name O’Neal as black within a total of 14,539 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 4,516 people named O’Neal as black within a total of 21,740.

Historic Black Figures With The O’Neal Surname

Here are some notable African Americans in history with O’Neal as their last name.

William O’Neal

  • Born: 1827
  • From: Woodville, Mississippi
  • Died: 1907

William O’Neal was born into slavery. He was hired out as an adult to work various jobs in Louisiana. He married Ellen in 1850, who was also a slave.

The life story of this married couple is most unusual. O’Neal bought Ellen’s freedom when her owner died. But then his master let him purchase his own freedom.

O’Neal didn’t have the funds so he agreed with his wife to sell her back into slavery. This was under the explicit agreement with the new owner (a Mrs. Johnson) that she would sell Ellen’s freedom for the same price.

This is what transpired at the end of the Civil War, and the O’Neal couple went on to live a prosperous life in Louisiana. This story is recounted in a biography titled “Life And History of William O’Neal, or, The Man Who Sold His Wife”. You can read it online here.

Kenneth Roderick O’Neal

  • Born: 1908
  • From: Union, Missouri
  • Died: 1989

Kevin O’Neal’s family moved to St Louis when he was a child. At high school, he won an art scholarship to the University of Iowa. After getting a degree in graphic design, he went on to get a degree in structural engineering.

O’Neal worked for the renowned black architect Walter Bailey for a while before opening his own architectural practice. As the first Chicago architecture firm with a black founder, O’Neal hired several young architects who would go on to be highly influential.

One was Beverly Lorraine Greene, who had to leave Chicago to find work but contributed to major building projects.

As well as being a mentor to others and designing many buildings in Chicago, O’Neal wrote several books on the design of contemporary homes.

Effie O’Neal

  • Born: 1913
  • From: Hawkinsville, Georgia
  • Died: 1994

Effie O’Neal graduated from Spelman College in 1933 and took a Masters from Atlanta University in 1935, the same year that she married her first husband Arthur Ellis.

When she qualified as a doctor in 1950, she went into pediatric care. Ellis studied the causes of infant mortality rates. She contributed to several medical breakthroughs in pediatric care, including the condition known as blue babies.

Ellis was appointed Director of Maternal Care with Ohio’s Department of Health in 1960. Ten years later, she was elected to the board of the American Medical Association in 1970.

O’Neal In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the O’Neal surname from different military services:

  • Buffalo soldiers
  • Black civil war sailors
  • Tuskegee airmen

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 O’Neal was in December 1881. William O’Neal was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in December 1881 at Fort Concho, Texas.

One of the later entries was in January 1909. Henry O’Neal was a Cook in the U.S. Tenth 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.

Tuskegee Airmen

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.

Walter O’Neal graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in August 1945. He qualified as a bomber pilot. Walter was from Cleveland, Ohio.