The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 119,513 black Americans with Young as their last name. That represented 25% of the total of 484,447 entries.
This article compares census numbers before and after the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Young in the last three centuries.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
Young 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 Young 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 902 people named Young who were recorded as black in the 1850 census. 410 were recorded as mixed.
Because they are in the main federal census, we know that they were free citizens.
There was a total of 47,571 free citizens named Young 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.
15,231 people named Young were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 2,095 as mixed.
There was a total of 92,500 people with the name.
Young 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 33,625 people with the last name Young as black within a total of 162,920 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 46,264 people named Young as black within a total of 257,618.
Historic Black Figures
Here are some notable African American people in history with Young as their last name.
- Born: 1864
- From: Mays Lick, Kentucky
- Died: 1922
Charles Young’s father escaped from slavery in 1865 by fleeing to Ohio and joining a black regiment in the Civil War. This allowed him to secure the freedom of his wife and children.
The young Charles was mentored by a black Ohio abolitionist named John Parker to complete his schooling. Charles took the entry exam for West Point Academy in 1883.
He faced plenty of discrimination as a cadet but graduated with a commission as 2nd lieutenant in 1889. Much of his 28 years of service was with the small number of black regiments.
In 1903, Charles supervised the Sequoia and General Grant National Parks, becoming the first black superintendent.
By 1916, Charles held the rank of Major when he led the 10th U.S. Cavalry in a charge against Pancho Villa’s forces in Mexico.
He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel for his efforts. He became the first African American to attain the rank of Colonel.
In 2022, the U.S. Department of Defense gave Young an honorary promotion to Brigadier General.
More firsts for historic African Americans
Here are some more black men and women who were pioneers in their fields:
- Born: 1889
- From: Clifton Forge, Virginia
- Died: 1964
Roger Arliner Young (a woman) enrolled at Howard University in 1916 to study music but started studying science in 1921. She received a masters from the University of Chicago in 1926.
She went to the University of Pennsylvania where she earned her PhD in 1940.
She was the first black woman to be awarded a PhD in the field of zoology.
Young In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of for family history research. Here are examples of the Young 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 Young was in October 1867. David Young was a Recruit in the Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in October 1867 at Boston, Massachussetts.
One of the later entries was in November 1914. Robert Young was a Cook 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 Young was for Hezekiah Young from Charleston, South Carolina. He enlisted in December 1862 at New York when he was aged 17.
The record shows that Hezekiah was assigned on July 1863 to the ship Lackawanna.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Jeweller. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.
“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Philadelphia in December 1864. Daniel was aged 30 and was from Charleston, South Carolina.
He was assigned to the ship Suwanee on February 1865.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Laborer. His naval rank was Landsman.
“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.
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.
Albert Young graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in March 1944. He qualified as a fighter pilot. Albert was from Memphis, Tennessee.
William Young came from Oberlin, Ohio. He graduated in September 1945 as a fighter pilot.
You can find a full list of graduate pilots in our list of Tuskegee Airmen.