The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 144,693 black Americans with Scott as their last name. That represented 33% of the total of 439,530 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Scott in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Scott 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 Scott 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 1,729 people named Scott who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 1,181 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 41,017 free citizens named Scott 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.
19,932 people named Scott were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 3,731 as mixed.
There was a total of 84,612 people with the name.
Scott 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 40,737 people with the last name Scott as black within a total of 144,175 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 55,215 people named Scott as black within a total of 224,712.
Historic Black Figures With The Scott Surname
Here are some notable African American people in history.
- Born: About 1800
- From: Southampton County, Virginia
- Died: 1858
When Dred Scott was sold to an Army surgeon in 1830, he ran away but was captured. He was moved to Fort Snelling in Minnesota and met his wife, Harriet Robinson.
Scott tried to buy his family’s freedom, but the widow of his former owner refused. Scott and Harriet took legal cases for their freedom on the grounds that their stay in Fort Snelling was in a territory that prohibited slavery.
Although they won their case, the widow appealed. The couple lost in the Missouri Supreme Court and later in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857.
In a strange twist to this tale, the widow married an abolitionist congressman who apparently hadn’t known about the court case. Calvin Chaffee insisted that the couple be transferred to the family of a former owner of Dred Scott.
That man, Taylor Blow, gave them their freedom.
Here is a picture of Harriet Scott:
Emmett Jay Scott
- Born: 1873
- From: Houston, Texas
- Died: 1957
Emmett Jay Scott worked as a janitor at a white newspaper called the Houston Post. Determined to be a journalist, he moved up to being a messenger and then a reporter for the paper.
To serve the local African American community, he co-founded a black newspaper in 1893, the Texas Freeman. The paper was heavily critical of Jim Crow laws and pay inequality.
Scott had covered how Booker T. Washington was developing the Tuskegee Institute as an industrial college for African Americans.
Booker T. subsequently hired Scott in 1897 and made him his right-hand man. Scott had a major role in the growth of the Institute.
At the approach of WW1, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Scott as a special assistant to the Secretary of War. This was the highest position for an African American in the administration.
In turn, Scott recruited William Henry Davis, a black Pharmacologist, for the department.
E.J. Scott would go on to write a history of black soldiers in WW1, published in 1919. You can read an excerpt about heroism in the Argonne Forest here.
Other black newspaper publishers
There were several other pioneering African American newspaper founders. Here are just a few:
- Born: 1950
- From: Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida
Winston Scott graduated with a degree in music from Florida State University in 1978. He enrolled in the Navy’s Officer Candidate School. Scott flew a SH-2F Navy helicopter until he entered the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey in 1978.
After a Masters in avionics, Scott qualified as a jet pilot. The F-14 Tomcat, the Hornet and the Corsair II are just some of the aircraft he piloted. NASA selected Scott in 1992 for the space program in 1992.
His first space flight was in 1996 on the Endeavour. His second flight was the following year on the Columbia. Scott logged two spacewalks. He recovered a satellite on the first, and performed assembly tests on the second.
Scott In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Scott surname from three different military services:
- Black civil war sailors
- Buffalo soldiers
- Tuskegee airmen
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 Scott was for George Scott from Georgetown, Delaware. He enlisted in December 1862 at Baltimore when he was aged 22.
The record shows that George was assigned on September 1863 to the ship James Adger.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer. His naval rank was Coal Heaver.
Coal heavers in the Navy shoveled coal into the furnace in the engine room.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Brooklyn in November 1864. Benjamin was aged 19 and was from Brooklyn, New York.
He was assigned to the ship Santee on June 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.
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 Scott was in October 1867. Robert Scott was a Private in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in October 1867 at Fort Arbuckle, Indian Territory.
One of the later entries was in June 1914. James Scott was a Corporal 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.
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.
Henry Scott graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in October 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Henry was from Jersey City, New Jersey.
Wayman Scott came from Oberlin, Ohio. He graduated in November 1945 as a bomber pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.