The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 55,053 black Americans with Patterson as their last name. That represented 27% of the total of 205,423 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Patterson.
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.
5,931 people named Patterson were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,086 as mixed.
There was a total of 40,651 people with the name.
Patterson 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 13,328 people with the last name Patterson as black within a total of 68,531 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 20,248 people named Patterson as black within a total of 111,507.
Historic Black Figures With The Patterson Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Patterson as their last name.
Mary Jane Patterson
- Born: 1840
- From: Raleigh, North Carolina
- Died: 1894
Mary Jane Patterson’s family moved to Oberlin, Ohio, when she was twelve. Oberlin College accepted black students, and many stayed in the Patterson family home. Mary had a keen interest in education and attended the college herself.
After graduating, she taught at a black school in Norfolk, Virginia before becoming the principal of a preparatory high school in Washington D.C. in 1871.
She was principal for two years at Dunbar High School before being replaced by Richard Greener, who was also African American. Patterson became principal again in 1873 and held the position for eleven years.
Her drive saw the school becoming a full High School and developing a teacher-training department. She taught there for another ten years until her untimely death. During her lifetime, she was prominent in several black organizations in D.C.
Other notable school principals
Here are some other noted African American school principals:
Frederick Douglas Patterson
- Born: 1871
- From: Greenfield, Ohio
- Died: 1932
The father of Frederick Douglas Patterson was a blacksmith in Ohio who partnered with a white carriage maker to form a company that built carriages.
He encouraged his sons’ education, and Frederick attended Ohio State University. Frederick left before graduating to teach in a Kentucky high school.
His father, Charles, had purchased his partner’s shares in the carriage business. His younger son, Samuel, worked with him and the firm was now called C.R. Patterson And Son.
When Samuel died in 1897, Frederick moved back to Ohio to work in the company. When his father died in 1910, Frederick was completely in charge.
He moved the business away from the horse-and-carriage and followed Henry Ford’s lead to build the Patterson-Greenfield car in 1915. This was the first black-owned car manufacturer.
Patterson In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Patterson 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 Patterson was in July 1867. William Patterson was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in July 1867 at Camp Grierson.
One of the later entries was in January 1915. Isadore Patterson was a Corporal 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.
Fred E. Patterson
One of the earliest entries for Patterson was for Fred E. Patterson from Litchfield, Connecticut. He enlisted in August 1862 at New London when he was aged 32.
The record shows that Fred E. was assigned on December 1862 to the ship Colorado.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Shoemaker. 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 Philadelphia in October 1863. Robert was aged 37 and was from Amherst County, Virginia.
He was assigned to the ship Wachusett on June 1866.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Brickmaker. His naval rank was Landsman.