The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 56,103 black Americans with Ross as their last name. That represented 24% of the total of 229,368 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Ross.
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.
7,038 people named Ross were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 1,051 as mixed.
There was a total of 38,337 people with the name.
Ross 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 16,031 people with the last name Ross as black within a total of 73,953 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 22,062 people named Ross as black within a total of 124,812.
Historic Black Figures With The Ross Surname
Here are some notable African Americans in history with Ross as their last name.
- Born: About 1820
- From: Dorchester County, Maryland
- Died: 1913
Araminta “Harriet” Ross is better known now as the legendary Harriet Tubman. She was one of nine children of Benjamin Ross and Harriet Green. The 12-year-old Harriet Ross tried to stop a fellow slave from being beaten and was injured severely herself.
She married John Tubman in 1844 despite marriage being illegal for slaves. She fled slavery with two brothers with the help of the Underground Railroad.
Harriet then became a major conductor on the Railroad, returning South many times to lead slaves to freedom.
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.
Here is an account of how Harriet Tubman led seven to freedom.
Tubman’s frequent travels made her an invaluable spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. She married Nelson Davis, a Union soldier, and worked tirelessly after the War to raise funds for freedmen and campaign for women’s suffrage.
- Born: 1941
- From: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Don Ross spent four years in the Air Force after High School before becoming a baker in Tulsa in 1963. He got involved in the local civil rights movement and was arrested several times during peaceful pickets.
He wrote for the Oklahoma Eagle, a black newspaper, through the 1960s. Ross was appointed as a senior editor at a newspaper in Gary, Indiana in 1972, becoming one of the first African Americans in that position in a major metropolitan publication.
In 1982, he won a seat in the Oklahoma House Of Representatives. Aside from his work on child labor and affirmative action, Ross initiated the campaign to stop government buildings from flying the Confederate flag. In 1989, Oklahoma was the first state to stop flying that flag.
Ross In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Ross 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 Ross was in June 1867. Hercules Ross was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in June 1867 at Fort Leavenworth.
One of the later entries was in January 1915. William Ross 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.
Charles E. Ross
One of the earliest entries for Ross was for Charles E. Ross from New York. He enlisted in June 1863 at New York when he was aged 23.
The record shows that Charles E. was assigned on September 1863 to the ship Sabine.
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.
Edward J. Ross
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New Orleans in May 1864. Edward J. was aged 29 and was from Cane River, Louisiana.
He was assigned to the ship Glasgow on October 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Weaver. His naval rank was Steerage Cook.
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.
Mac Ross graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in March 1942. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Mac was from Dayton, Ohio.
Merrill Ross came from Pineville, Kentucky. He graduated in January 1946 as a fighter pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.