The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 41,415 black Americans with Porter as their last name. That represented 25% of the total of 163,054 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Porter.
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.
5,758 people named Porter were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 948 as mixed.
There was a total of 36,918 people with the name.
Porter 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 12,392 people with the last name Porter as black within a total of 60,513 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 17,225 people named Porter as black within a total of 90,234.
Historic Black Figures With The Porter Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Porter as their last name.
- Born: 1869
- From: St Louis, Missouri
- Died: 1928
Beulah Wright moved with her widowed mother from St Louis to Indianapolis as a teenager. She started working as a schoolteacher in 1889.
After she married Jefferson Porter, she studied medicine at a private medical college. When she opened a medical practice in 1897, she was the first black female doctor in the city.
She returned to teaching in 1905 and became the principal of the Robert Gould Shaw School. During her twenty-five-year tenure, she was also heavily involved in improvement activities for African American women.
She formed a Women’s Improvement Club with her friend Lillian Thomas Fox, and helped established a tuberculosis camp in 1905 to treat black sufferers who were excluded from the City Hospital.
The camp is considered to be the first outdoor TB camp in the U.S and ran until 1916.
- Born: 1905
- From: Baltimore, Maryland
- Died: 1970
James Porter studied painting and art history at Howard University and was appointed an art instructor there after he graduated in 1926. He went on to study in New York before getting a grant to study Baroque art at the Sorbonne in France.
Porter’s master’s thesis at New York University, which he completed in 1937, was on modern black art and artists. It was the foundation of his seminal work, Modern Negro Art, published in 1943. This is still a major part of African American art history.
Porter spent decades developing the art department at Howard University. He also traveled and painted in Cuba, Haiti, and West Africa.
Porter In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Porter 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 Porter was in May 1867. Lewis Porter was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in May 1867 at Fort Gibson, Connecticut.
One of the later entries was in February 1914. Clarence F Porter was a Wagoner 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.
One of the earliest entries for Porter was for Edward Porter from Jackson County, Florida. He enlisted in March 4 1863 at St. Marks FL when he was aged 18.
The record shows that Edward was assigned on April 1 1863 to the ship San Jacinto.
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 New York in October 1 1863. David was aged 21 and was from New York, New York.
He was assigned to the ship Minnesota on March 31 1864.
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.
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.
Calvin Porter graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in September 1945. He qualified as a bomber pilot. Calvin was from Detroit, Michigan.
Robert Porter came from Los Angeles, California. He graduated in April 1945 as a fighter pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.