The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 213,494 black Americans with Taylor as their last name. That represented 28% of the total of 751,209 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Taylor in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Taylor 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 Taylor 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 1,376 people named Taylor who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 669 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 69,740 free citizens named Taylor 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.
28,434 people named Taylor were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 4,089 as mixed.
There was a total of 134,959 people with the name.
Taylor 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 60,066 people with the last name Taylor as black within a total of 239,978 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 80,577 people named Taylor as black within a total of 383,283.
Historic Black Figures
Here are some notable African American people in history with Taylor as a last name.
- Born: 1825
- From: Washington County, Maryland
John Taylor was one of three brothers who escaped from slavery in 1856 with the help of the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses and travel routes organized by many church and community leaders, civil rights activists, and abolitionists.
The three Taylor brothers hitched their master’s horses to his carriage and loaded in two of their wives and three children. One brother had to leave a wife behind.
The brothers drove the horses hard from Hagerstown in Maryland to Chambersburg in Pennsylvania.
There, they sought help from members of the Underground Railroad in Hagerstown who quickly sent them on to Philadelphia.
The Underground committee in Philadelphia knew that the group would be pursued. They put them on the (real) train to freedom in Canada.
William Still, a black abolitionist, was one of the committee in Philadelphia. He published a book in 1872 that documented many of the stories of the fugitives that they helped.
We have an excerpt of his account of the escape of the Taylor families by horse and carriage from Maryland.
- Born: 1849
- From: Shreveport, Louisiana
- Died: 1931
Preston Taylor served as a drummer with the 116th Regiment Colored Troops during the Civil War. He then became a pastor and built a church in Mount Sterling, Kentucky.
He became a prominent church minister while running a business laying railroad tracks.
Taylor moved to Nashville in 1884 where he founded a church and several businesses. He helped establish:
- the first black bank, the Citizens Bank
- an agricultural college for African Americans, which is now Tennessee State University
- a large municipal graveyard, Greenwood Cemetery
Other historic black bankers
- Leonard Bailey co-founded a bank in Washington.
- Charles Banks established a bank in Mississippi.
- Maggie Walker founded the St Luke Penny Savings Bank.
More firsts for historic African Americans
Here are some more black men and women who were pioneers in their fields:
- Born: 1935
- From: Houston, Texas
- Died: 2014
John Taylor’s mother became California’s first black registered nurse in 1946 when she had to get a second degree from UC Berklely. The state had refused to recognize her qualifications from a New Orleans black university.
To put that date into perspective, Mary Gibson became the first certified nurse in Texas in 1907.
Ten years after his mother’s registration, John Taylor got involved with the Congress of Racial Equality. He volunteered to join the Freedom Riders in Jackson, Mississippi.
When he walked into a train station’s “white only” waiting room, he was thrown into jail. Thurgood Marshall bailed him out.
In later years, Taylor co-founded a local NAACP branch and became active in organized labor associations.
The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode on segregated buses in the South from 1961. They sat in mixed groups to challenge seating segregation.
If they weren’t arrested on the bus, they would disembark and sit in segregated cafes and terminals.
The activists endured violent arrests from local police who would also let gathering mobs attack them. Many of the Freedom Riders were young college students.
Other freedom riders in the 1960s
Taylor In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Taylor surname from three different military services:
- Black civil war sailors
- Buffalo soldiers
- 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 Taylor was in April 1867. Charles Taylor was a Musician in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in April 1867 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
One of the later entries was in February 1914. Daniel Taylor was a Sergeant 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.
One of the earliest entries for Taylor was for Allison Taylor from Balls Bluff, Virginia. He enlisted in October 1861 at Off Wilmington, North Carolina when he was aged 26.
The record shows that Allison was assigned on May 1863 to the ship Cambridge.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer. 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 Cincinnati in August 1863. Hezekiah was aged 25 and was from Highland County, Ohio.
He was assigned to the ship Moose on April 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Fireman. His naval rank was 2nd Class Fireman.
Firemen in the Navy worked in the engine room and with other machinery.
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.
Ulysses Taylor graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in April 1943. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Ulysses was from Kaufman, Texas.
William Taylor came from Inkster, Michigan. He graduated in August 1945 as a bomber pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.