The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 48,250 black Americans with Price as their last name. That represented 21% of the total of 235,251 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Price in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Price Before The Civil War
The 1850 census was the first to record all free members of households together. Before this, people who were not white were not named in the federal census.
In 1850, there was a box to enter color on the census. There were three categories: white, black, and mulatto. The third term is the language of the time, and I will use mixed in this article.
If you are researching your black Price ancestors in census archives, be sure to check the two non-white categories. Do not assume that the people recording the information were always correct.
1850 Federal Census
There were 648 people named Price who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 220 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 23,151 free citizens named Price that year. There would be one more census in 1860 before the Civil War.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. All African Americans were included.
Those who were omitted in 1850 and 1860 because they were enslaved were now recorded.
6,634 people named Price were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,153 as mixed.
There was a total of 43,563 people with the name.
Price In The 1900 And 1940 Census
The mixed category was dropped in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.
The 1900 census recorded 14,273 people with the last name Price as black within a total of 77,920 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 19,319 people named Price as black within a total of 127,896.
Historic Black Figures With The Price Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Price as their last name.
- From: Maysville, Kentucky
John Price was the central figure in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of 1858. The town of Oberlin in Ohio was noted for having abolitionist sympathies, and Price had escaped to there from slavery in Maysville, Kentucky.
The Oberlin marshal arrested Price under the Fugitive Slave Act. He and his deputies and took Price to a nearby town called Wellington to board a train back to slavery in Kentucky.
When Oberlin folk got wind of this, they joined with Wellington residents in a rescue attempt.
The marshal and deputies holed up in a local hotel. The abolitionists stormed inside and escorted John Price from the attic.
They hid him back in Oberlin and eventually got him to freedom and safety in Canada.
About the rescuers
Two of the thirty-seven rescuers were put on trial for aiding Price to escape. Simeon M. Bushell was white and Charles H. Langston was black. Langston gave a rousing speech from the dock.
Both men were convicted. However, public sentiment was in favor of the rescue and the judge gave them light sentences.
Another rescuer was Lewis Sheridan Leary. He had married Mary Patterson, a graduate of Oberlin College. Leary later joined the abolitionist John Brown in the raid on Harper’s Ferry and was killed during the initial attack.
Mary Patterson, a widow with an infant child, married Charles Langston ten years later. They had a daughter Caroline, who was the mother of the renowned writer Langston Hughes.
- From: North Carolina
The Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses and travel routes organized by many church and community leaders, civil rights activists, and abolitionists. Thousands of enslaved people were helped to escape from the South.
William Still kept substantial notes on fugitives who were helped on their way through Philadelphia. He published the notes in a book in 1872.
William Jordan was one such fugitive helped by the Philadelphia underground railroad. When he got to Canada, he changed his name to William Price.
Price escaped from the ownership of George Edmund Badger, the Governor of North Carolina. Badger was a wealthy plantation owner with at least twenty slaves. He supported the confederacy in the Civil War.
William Price fled from harsh treatment and hid in a cave in the woods before reaching Philadelphia. The local Underground Railroad committee took many interesting notes when they interviewed him.
You can read the full account in our excerpt on William Price and The Underground Railroad.
Price In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Price 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 Price was in July 1867. William Price was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in July 1867 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in February 1914. Elmer Price was a Private 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 Price was for William Price from West Chester, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in July 1861 at Boston when he was aged 32.
The record shows that William was assigned on July 1861 to the ship Preble.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Brickmaker. 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 Monticello in January 1862. Lewis was aged 23 and was from Wilmington, North Carolina.
He was assigned to the ship John L Lockwood on March 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Fireman. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
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. The photograph above (from the Library of Congress) shows a class in session.
They flew single-engine fighter planes or twin-engine bombers. 352 fought in combat.
William Price graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in March 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. William was from Topeka, Kansas.
His combat credits said:
Downed 1 Me-109 on March 16, 1945
This means that he shot down an enemy plane on that date.
Charles Price came from Garden City, Kansas. He graduated in January 1900 as a bomber pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.