Rodgers As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 18,141 black Americans with Rodgers as their last name. That represented 24% of the total of 76,095 entries.

This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Rodgers.

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.

2,005 people named Rodgers were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 254 as mixed.

There was a total of 18,695 people with the name.

Rodgers 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 6,245 people with the last name Rodgers as black within a total of 33,142 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 6,004 people named Rodgers as black within a total of 38,673.

Historic Black Figures With The Rodgers Surname

Here are some notable African Americans in history with Rodgers as their last name.

Gustavus Rodgers

  • Born: 1885
  • From: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Died: 1961

Gustavus Rodgers worked as a carpenter as a young man in Philadelphia. When he attended an evangelical Adventist meeting in Delaware in 1908, he converted to become a Seventh Day Adventist. He was tasked to be an evangelist among the black community in Baltimore and grew a small flock.

Acclaimed as an orator, he formed relationships with other black denominations like the AME churches. Rodgers pushed hard to promote education opportunities for African Americans in the Maryland branches of the religion.

Rodgers was sent to Washington where he drew in several renowned black figures. He greatly expanded the church school before departing for Los Angeles. Rodgers built a new church there and drew crowds with his sermons. His longstanding advocacy for equality within the religion was not always popular.

Vel Rodgers Phillips

  • Born: 1924
  • From: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Died: 2018

Velvalia Rodgers won a scholarship to study at Howard University in Washington D.C. which was segregated at the time. When Vel was told to leave worship at a church, she got involved with the NAACP. She married Dale Phillips, and both graduated from the University of Wisconsin law school together.

They opened a legal practice in Milwaukee. Vel Phillips won a seat on the Milwaukee town council in 1956. She was the first African American to do so. As an active member of the NAACP, she was arrested at a peaceful rally after the organization’s office was firebombed.

In 1971, she became the first African American judge in Wisconsin. Seven years later, she was elected Secretary of State in Wisconsin. Amongst her many other accomplishments, she was the Distinguished Professor of Law at Marquette University.

Rodgers In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Rodgers surname from different military services:

  • Buffalo soldiers
  • Tuskegee airmen

Buffalo Soldiers

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 Rodgers was in July 1867. Samuel Rodgers was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in July 1867 at Fort Arbuckle.

One of the later entries was in April 1915. Russell Rodgers was a Private in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry.

If you are researching military ancestors, there is a free index of these records on and

You have to create an account on either website, but you do not need to pay for the Buffalo Soldiers archive.

Tuskegee Airmen

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.

Marion Rodgers graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in February 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Marion was from Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Rodgers 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 1,030 records for Rodgers in the archives. Here are some of the first names:

  • Alexander
  • Clarissa
  • Howard
  • Margaret