The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 55,878 black Americans with Perry as their last name. That represented 25% of the total of 221,741 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Perry.
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.
6,387 people named Perry were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 817 as mixed.
There was a total of 37,937 people with the name.
Perry 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 13,789 people with the last name Perry as black within a total of 66,707 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 22,420 people named Perry as black within a total of 117,349.
Historic Black Figures With The Perry Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Perry as their last name.
Rufus Lewis Perry
- Born: 1834
- From: Smith County, Tennessee
- Died: 1895
Rufus Lewis Perry was born into slavery in Tennessee. Having learned to read and write as a child, he was able to forge a pass and escape to Canada in 1852.
He then went to Michigan where he entered a Baptist seminary and was ordained as a pastor in 1861.
He co-founded several organizations to serve the African American community, including an orphanage in Brooklyn. Perry was a keen educationalist and a classics scholar.
He was prominent in a campaign in 1883 to stop the Brooklyn Board Of Education from closing black schools. Perry was also a prominent member amongst African American Baptists.
- Born: 1860
- From: Terre Haute, Indiana
- Died: 1946
Although born in Indiana, William Perry’s mother took him to Kentucky when his father died. When he graduated from a Louisville high school in 1877, he started teaching there.
Perry obtained a wide education. He graduated from the Medical College of Illinois in 1908, and was the first black doctor to be licensed to practice in Kentucky. He also studied law in Louisville.
He was head principal of an elementary school in Louisville from 1891 to 1927. It was renamed in his honor in 1952.
Other notable African Americans in Louisville
Here are some other notable figures who were born or lived in Louisville:
Perry In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Perry 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 Perry was in December 1867. John W. Perry was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in December 1867 at Indianapolis, Indiana.
One of the later entries was in June 1914. Willie Perry was a Trumpeter in the 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.
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 Perry was for Edward Perry from . He enlisted in April 1863 at Clarksville, Tennessee when he was aged 22.
The record shows that Edward was assigned on December 1863 to the ship Key West.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer. His naval rank was 2nd Class Boy.
“2nd Class Boy” was a rank assigned to young men who were under eighteen when they enlisted.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New York in March 1864. George was aged 25 and was from Providence, Rhode Island.
He was assigned to the ship Memphis on December 1865. His naval rank was Ordinary Seaman.
An ordinary seaman in the Navy is an apprentice who serves on the deck.
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.
Henry Perry graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in September 1942. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Henry was from Thomasville, Georgia.