The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 7,378 black Americans with Pleasant as their last name. That represented 55% of the total of 4,051 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Pleasant.
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.
566 people named Pleasant were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 95 as mixed.
There was a total of 1,149 people with the name.
Pleasant 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 1,074 people with the last name Pleasant as black within a total of 1,978 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 1,482 people named Pleasant as black within a total of 3,672.
Historic Black Figures With The Pleasant Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Pleasant as their last name.
Mary Ellen Pleasant
- Born: 1814
- From: Virginia
- Died: 1904
Mary Ellen Pleasant was sent as a young teenager to Nantucket to work for Quakers who taught her to read and write. She married in the 1840s in Boston.
She and her husband were conductors on the Underground Railroad who helped fugitive slaves get to Canada. When he died, she inherited a substantial sum (worth about half a million now).
After the introduction of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, American slave catches started going over the Canadian border to grab escaped slaves. The Chatham Vigilance Committee was founded in Ontario, one of several groups that sought to protect fugitives.
Mary Ellen was a member of the Chatham Committee. Their activities included storming a train in Chatham to rescue a boy, Sylvanus Demarest, being transported to Michigan by a slave catcher.
Under legal threat due to her activities, Mary Ellen left for California in about 1849, as the Gold Rush was taking off. As so few of the new arrivals into the state were women, she established a lucrative business in boarding houses, laundries, and possibly brothels.
She continued to support abolitionist cases financially, including John Brown’s doomed rising at Harper’s Ferry. Stanton Hunton was another wealthy black backer of John Brown.
Chatham Vigilance Committee
These were other black members of the committee:
Pleasant In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Pleasant surname from military service.
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 Pleasant was in September 1876. J.S. Pleasant was a Private in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry. He was stationed in September 1876 at Fort Union, New Mexico.
One of the later entries was in May 1913. Herbert Pleasant was a Private in the U.S. Tenth 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.
One of the earliest entries for Pleasant was for William Pleasant from Halifax Courthouse, Virginia. He enlisted in December 30 1863 at White Hall LA when he was aged 29.
The record shows that William was assigned on April 1 1866 to the ship St. Clair.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer. 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 Cincinnati in January 1 1864. George was aged 26 and was from Ross County, Ohio.
He was assigned to the ship Ouachita on July 1 1864.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Cook. His naval rank was Seaman.
A seaman in the Navy is a sailor who is not an officer.