The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 51,910 black Americans with Owens as their last name. That represented 28% of the total of 182,719 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Owens.
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.
4,288 people named Owens were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 683 as mixed.
There was a total of 26,263 people with the name.
Owens 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 11,042 people with the last name Owens as black within a total of 50,871 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 18,967 people named Owens as black within a total of 92,755.
Historic Black Figures With The Owens Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Owens as their last name.
- From: Texas
- Died: 1882
Robert Owens bought his freedom from slavery in Texas and moved his family to Los Angeles in 1850. He and his son Charles set up a successful transport company. Their military contracts made them very wealthy.
Charles and his father were actively involved in helping Biddy Mason and her family gain their freedom from slaveholders who unlawfully held them in the free state of California. Charles married Biddy’s daughter in 1856.
Charles ran the business after his father died. He owned a lot of property and was one of the richest African Americans in L.A. when he died.
- Born: 1916
- From: Portsmouth, Virginia
- Died: 2008
After serving in World War II, Hugo Owens opened his dental practice in Portsmouth in 1947. He would later establish the National Dental Association.
Owens was an activist as well as a prominent dentist. He filed a lawsuit to integrate Portmouth’s parks in 1950. He was back in the courts later over the golf courses and libraries.
He was elected to Chesapeake Council in 1970, one of the first two African Americans to do so. He was also rector of Virginia State University and Old Dominion University.
A middle school is named after him in Chesapeake.
Other pioneering dentists
Here are some early African American dentists:
- Ida Gray, who qualified as a dentist in Chicago in 1890
- Olive Henderson became the second black female dentist in the city.
- Two children of Rev H.B. Delaney
- Thomas Bayne who escaped slavery and opened a dental practice
Owens In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Owens 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 Owens was in October 1867. Frederick Owens was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in October 1867 at Boston, Massachusetts.
One of the later entries was in April 1914. James H. Owens 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.
Francis A. T. Owens
One of the earliest entries for Owens was for Francis A. T. Owens from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in October 1863 at New York when he was aged 21.
The record shows that Francis A. T. was assigned on March 1864 to the ship Penobscot.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter. 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 Washington in July 1864. Dennis was aged 19 and was from Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland.
He was assigned to the ship Matthew Vassar on April 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Laborer. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.