The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 26,453 black Americans with Reynolds as their last name. That represented 13% of the total of 200,247 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Reynolds in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Reynolds 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 Reynolds 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 196 people named Reynolds who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 187 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 23,487 free citizens named Reynolds 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.
2,946 people named Reynolds were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 676 as mixed.
There was a total of 40,780 people with the name.
Reynolds 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 5,838 people with the last name Reynolds as black within a total of 67,621 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 9,393 people named Reynolds as black within a total of 110,311.
Historic Black Figures With The Reynolds Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Reynolds as their last name.
- Born: 1908
- From: Key West, Florida
Grant Reynolds was the first African American to complete a degree in Divinity in 1938. He was ordained as a minister the following year.
Reynolds was also an activist. He was president of his local chapter of the NAACP.
He joined the army during the Second World War as an Army Chaplain but resigned in 1944 due to the hostile discrimination he had faced over three years.
After the war, Reynolds campaigned against discrimination (Jim Crow) in the armed forces. He worked closely with A. Philip Randolph, a renowned black labor unionist.
The two men threatened to organize a black boycott of the draft.
This influenced President Truman to sign an executive order in 1948 that mandated equal treatment in the armed services. It was just a start, but it started with this one-time army chaplain.
- Born: 1934
- From: Detroit, Michigan
The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode on segregated buses in the South from 1961. They sat in mixed groups to challenge seating segregation.
If they weren’t arrested on the bus, they would disembark and sit in segregated cafes and terminals.
The activists endured violent arrests from local police who would also let gathering mobs attack them. Many of the Freedom Riders were young college students.
Ike Reynolds was a sophomore at Wayne State University, and also an activist with CORE (Congress Of Racial Equality) in 1961.
He joined the first of the freedom rides from Sumter, South Carolina to Birmingham, Alabama stopping twice and entering whites-only areas with little trouble.
But when the group boarded a Trailways bus in Anniston, local klansmen were also on the bus.
The klansmen launched a vicious attack and beat some of the Riders senseless. The bus continued to Birmingham where more KKK were waiting with the tacit support of the local police.
Ike was brutally attacked by a mob that left him semiconscious beside a trash bin.
He bravely led a new group of Riders on a Trailways bus from Montgomery to Jackson. Two more bus loads followed. All seventeen Riders were jailed in Jackson.
The above was a brief account of what happened. You can read a full version in our separate article on Ike Reynolds, Freedom Rider.
Reynolds In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Reynolds 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 Reynolds was in 1867. Henry Reynolds was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in 1867 at Fort Riley, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in 1915. George Reynolds was a Private 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.
One of the earliest entries for Reynolds was for John Reynolds from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in 1861 at Boston when he was aged 26.
The record shows that John was assigned on September 1863 to the ship Benton.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter and Seaman. His naval rank was Ordinary Seaman.
An ordinary seaman in the Navy is an apprentice who serves on the deck.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New York in 1864. William was aged 21 and was from Washington D.C..
He was assigned to the ship Vanderbilt on November 1865.
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.
Clarence Reynolds graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in August 1945. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Clarence was from Ahoskie, North Carolina.