African American Census Schedules

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The United States Federal Census

This article is part of a series.
Overview of the U.S. Census
Finding and Reading U.S. Census Records
1790 U.S. Census
1800 U.S. Census
1810 U.S. Census
1820 U.S. Census
1830 U.S. Census
1840 U.S. Census
1850 U.S. Census
1860 U.S. Census
1870 U.S. Census
1880 U.S. Census
1890 U.S. Census
1900 U.S. Census
1910 U.S. Census
1920 U.S. Census
1930 U.S. Census
1940 U.S. Census
Census Indexes and Finding Aids
Using the Soundex with Census Records
Non-Population Schedules and Special Censuses
State and Local Censuses
Census Substitutes
African American Census Schedules
Reconstructed 1790 Census Schedules
Censuses of Native Americans
List of Useful Census References

From about 1830 on, northern cities increasingly felt the need to monitor African Americans who were moving from the South seeking freedom and work. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, Ohio called for the number and names of African Americans who had immigrated to Ohio from other states since 1 March 1861, their current township of residence, and their state of origin. Thirteen counties in southeastern Ohio submitted schedules. Hamilton County refused because the numbers were too great and its staff too limited.

Household censuses of Philadelphia’s African American population were taken in 1838 and 1856 by the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and in 1847 by the Society of Friends. In addition to the variables listed in the federal census, the records of 11,600 households contain information describing membership in church, beneficial, and temperance societies; income, education level, and school attendance; house, ground, and water rent; how freedom was acquired; and the amount of property brought to Pennsylvania. These superb records constitute the most detailed information we have describing any population group in the mid-nineteenth century; they are being computer-processed as part of an urban-immigrant study of African Americans in Philadelphia conducted by Temple University.

The National Archives has issued a separate list of “Free Black Heads of Families in the First Census of the U.S. 1790” as Special List 34. This compilation by Debra L. Newman is available free of charge upon request from the National Archives. An expanded version for New York is Free Black Heads of Households in the New York State Federal Census 1790–1830, compiled by Alice Eichholz and James M. Rose.34

NARA has also published List of Selected African Americans from the 1890 and 1900 Federal Population censuses of Delaware and Related Census Publications “Agriculture in the State of Delaware” (1901) and “Negroes in the United States” (1904), which reproduces lists of selected African Americans from the 1890 and 1900 censuses of Delaware as well as other related Bureau of the Census publications. You can find it on the NARA website.