The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 1,897 black Americans with Shanks as their last name. That represented 16% of the total of 11,822 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Shanks.
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.
187 people named Shanks were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 51 as mixed.
There was a total of 2,144 people with the name.
Shanks 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 419 people with the last name Shanks as black within a total of 4,015 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 682 people named Shanks as black within a total of 6,551.
Historic Black Figures With The Shanks Surname
Here is a notable African Americans in history with Shanks as their last name.
Juanita Shanks Craft
- Born: 1902
- From: Round Rock, Texas
- Died: 1985
The parents of Juanita Shanks were schoolteachers. She studied millinery at Prairie View University and worked as a seamstress in the 1920s. She joined the Dallas NAACP in 1935 and married her husband, Johnnie Craft, two years later.
Juanita Craft became a leader in the Texas NAACP and organized many branches. Craft helped organize sit-ins and pickets throughout segregated Texas. She was also involved in the campaign to integrate the University of North Texas.
She was elected to the Dallas City Council in 1975 and served two terms. There is a city park and a U.S. post office in Dallas named after her.
Shanks In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Some of the earliest for African Americans date back to the Civil War.
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 Shanks was for William Shanks from Hampton, Virginia. He enlisted in July 14 1863 at Hampton Roads when he was aged 29.
The record shows that William was assigned in January 1864 to the ship Roanoke.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Brickmaker/layer. 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 Port Hudson in February 7 1865. George was aged 17 and was from Clinton, Louisiana.
He was assigned to the ship Naiad on June 30 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer.