The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 31,670 black Americans with Robertson as their last name. That represented 21% of the total of 153,666 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Robertson.
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.
7,318 people named Robertson were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,054 as mixed.
There was a total of 27,094 people with the name.
Robertson 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 14,151 people with the last name Robertson as black within a total of 53,433 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 33,744 people named Robertson as black within a total of 125,877.
Historic Black Figures With The Robertson Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Robertson as their last name.
- Born: 1925
- From: Norfolk, Virginia
- Died: 2001
Carolyn Robertson graduated in 1941 from Bennett College, a small women’s HBCU in Greensboro, North Carolina.
She wanted to pursue postgraduate studies in clinical psychology in Virginia, but the discipline was only available in white colleges. Under the doctrine of “separate-but-equal”, the state funded her attendance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Robertson married Raymond Payton in 1947 but they divorced in 1951. Meanwhile, she lectured psychology at Livingstone College in Salisbury before moving to Virginia State. She joined Howard University in 1959 as assistant professor of psychology.
Carolyn Robertson Payton joined the Peace Corps in 1964. She conducted psychological studies to improve conditions for volunteers. She became Country Director for the Caribbean in 1966. Eleven years later, President Carter appointed her Director of the organization.
But Carolyn was deeply committed to the traditional non-political ethos of the Corps. She clashed with another senior member, and ultimately resigned in 1978 after just thirteen months in office. She returned to Howard as Dean of Counseling.
Carolyn’s early psychological research involved debunking contemporary I.Q. tests as valid measures for African Americans. She ensured that black participants were included in the development of the Wechsler Scale. At Howard, she researched vertical perception and pioneered the use of group therapy with black participants.
As an influential member of the American Psychological Association, she worked hard to increase the involvement of minorities, women, and LGBT members. She sat on many boards and committees in the organization. She was awarded the PA Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology in 1997.
Other Black Pioneers in Psychology
Robertson In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Robertson 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 Robertson was in April 1899. James Robertson was a Private in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry. He was stationed in April 1899 at Fort Apache, Arizona Territory.
One of the later entries was in March 1914. Charles Robertson was a 1st Sergeant 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 Robertson was for James Robertson from Detroit, Michigan. He enlisted in October 14 1859 at Boston when he was aged 28.
The record shows that James was assigned on January 1 1900 to the ship .
His occupation before enlisting was as a Cook. 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 in January 16 1863. Frank was aged 22 and was from Woodford Co., Kentucky.
He was assigned to the ship Linden on April 1 1863.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Fieldhand. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
Robertson In The Freedmen’s Bureau Records
The Freedmen’s Bureau was established after the Civil War to help newly freed African Americans. You can read more in our article on researching the Freedmen archives.
There are over 3,330 records for Robertson in the archives. Here are some of the first names: