The Blackest Surnames in the USA

This post was inspired by blogger Vanishing American, who wrote:

. . . . .When was the last time you heard of someone surnamed
. . . . .Washington or Jefferson who was not Black?

Here is a list of the Blackest surnames in the USA, among the 1,000-most-common surnames. Data is from Census 2000. See below for commentary and analysis.

(Column 3 shows the percentage of Americans who bear a given surname who are Black.)
(Column 5 shows the percentage of Americans who bear a given surname who are White.)

. USA’s Blackest Names .
% Black
# of Blacks
With Name
% White
1 Washington 89.9% 146,500 5.2%
2 Jefferson 75.2% 38,600 18.7%
3 Booker 65.6% 23,000 30.1%
4 Banks 54.2% 53,900 41.3%
5 Jackson 53.0% 353,200 41.9%
6 Mosley 52.8% 23,600 42.7%
7 Dorsey 51.8% 21,300 44.0%
8 Gaines 50.3% 21,300 45.1%
9 Rivers 50.2% 18,100 42.5%
10 Joseph 48.8% 39,100 35.5%
11 Mack 48.4% 32,500 47.4%
12 Singleton 48.1% 24,900 48.3%
13 Charles 47.3% 24,400 38.9%
14 Williams 46.7% 716,700 48.5%
15 Branch 46.4% 15,300 49.2%
16 Robinson 44.1% 221,800 51.3%
17 Ware 43.9% 20,500 51.5%
18 Coleman 43.8% 91,400 52.0%
19 Roberson 42.1% 22,400 53.9%
20 Harris 41.6% 247,100 53.9%
21 Glover 41.0% 26,300 54.9%
22 Houston 40.9% 22,100 54.6%
23 McNeil 40.8% 13,600 55.3%
24 Hinton 40.0% 13,300 55.6%
25 Clay 39.8% 18,400 55.4%
26 Hampton 39.5% 26,200 56.3%
27 Benjamin 39.2% 14,300 53.3%
28 Flowers 39.2% 21,300 55.9%
29 Sims 39.1% 42,000 56.8%
30 Wiggins 38.7% 18,700 57.2%

— For the record, this means there are, today, 173 Black Washingtons for every 10 White Washingtons; and four Black Jeffersons for every White Jefferson.

— Adams, a colonial-stock name associated with the northeast still manages to be one-in-five Black — 19.2% black, 76.2% white. (Actually people named Adams settled all over).

A total of 184 common surnames are at least one-quarter Black.
These accounted for ~10.8 million Blacks, of the ~19.1 million Blacks with one of the 1,000-most-common names.

Least-Black Names
— The least-black names are, I suppose unsurprisingly, mostly Oriental in origin. The names below 0.15%-black are: Huang, Zhang, Huynh, Li, Cervantes, Orozco, Yang, Lin, Ibarra, Yoder, Esparza. [Note: “Blacks” here are only “Black non-Hispanics”].

— The least-Black “White” names among the 1,000 most-common U.S. surnames are:
1. Yoder: 0.14% Blacks; Whites: 98.11%.
2. Krueger: 0.16% Blacks; Whites: 97.06%
3. Koch: 0.19% Blacks; Whites: 96.89%
4. Schmitt: 0.19% Blacks; Whites: 96.82%
5. Rasmussen: 0.20% Blacks; Whites: 96.02%
6. Schroeder: 0.23% Blacks; Whites: 96.74%
7. Haas: 0.23% Blacks; Whites: 96.67%
8. Mueller: 0.23% Blacks; Whites: 96.96%
9. Erickson: 0.24% Blacks; Whites: 96.39%
10. Christensen: 0.27% Blacks; Whites: 95.86%
[links on names are to historical maps of frequency by state]

— On the subject of “least-black names”, I find RANGEL has only 0.23% Blacks, 6.08% Whites, 92.77% Hispanics. Congressman Rangel is Puerto-Rican in origin.

Source: A database from the U.S. Census of the 1,000 most common surnames in the USA. It includes breakdown by race, from which the above lists are derived. [Click on “File A: Top 1000 Names (XLS – 132k)”]

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47 Responses to The Blackest Surnames in the USA

  1. not too late says:

    Interesting. Looks like the Washingtons and Jeffersons somehow outcompeted(biologically) other blacks. I wonder how that happened.

    • Hail says:

      I don’t think it is biological (I can’t imagine a mechanism for such), but a remnant of the relative wealth of whites in the 1700s-Southern-colonies of what became the USA.

      I’d guess that the share of black-vs.-white for any given surname is probably about the same today as it was in 1860.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is way off. It doesn’t say that more black people have the name “Washington” than any other name. It says that “Washington” is the name such that the group of people who have that name is composed almost entirely of black people. I.e. this is consistent with there being only 889 black people with the name “Washington” if there are only 1000 people total who have that name. It’s not like the Washingtons must have outcompeted anyone.

    • dgard1125 says:

      I think it’s more likely that many, many former slaves gave themselves the surname “Washington” after Emancipation. It has nothing to do with “biological competition”.

  2. Hail, it seems as if there must have been many slave-owning Washingtons (not just the President, who as far as I know had no progeny) and Jeffersons, but the descendants of the slaves they owned were especially prolific.

    As far as the names that are least common among blacks, it seems most of them are German or Scandinavian. I suppose that would have something to do with the fact that many of the Germanic settlers arrived after the days of slavery or the areas in which they settled (the Northern plains, the upper Midwest, the Northwest) was not an area in which slavery was established on any scale if at all.

    Thanks for the mention and the link.

    • Hail says:

      VA, by what mechanism would Washington or Jefferson blacks be more prolific than other-named blacks?

      Two thing I wonder: If a slave-owner ever “cashed out” and sold all his slaves, or emancipated them as Washington did in his will, would they keep their original names or take new ones?
      And what was the difference between slave and free-black fertility? (President Washington’s ex-slaves, would they have had larger or smaller families for those two to three generations compared to the blacks who stayed slaves through 1865?).

  3. Jackson says:

    Blacks didn’t have last names before the end of slavery. Many picked their own names I would imagine, or perhaps even had them given to them by sympathetic whites. It may have been a white idea to name them all “Washington” and “Jefferson” as a sort of easy identifier.

    • Hail says:

      Jackson, I’ve always understood they used their masters’ surnames. Where did you hear they were surnameless before 1865? Was Mohammed Ali wrong that “Clay” was a “slave name” after all?

      There were also a fair number of free blacks long before 1865. I wonder how they decided on names.

    • Hail says:

      Was Mohammed Ali wrong that “Clay” was a “slave name”?

      “[After slavery], some African Americans adopted the names of famous Americans such as Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, or Clay” [Link]

      It looks like he may well have been!

      • between4walls says:

        The original Cassius Clay was a famous Southern abolitionist (and relative of the more famous Henry Clay.

      • between4walls says:

        Sorry, didn’t realize this comment was from 2011- just saw the post via link today!

        • Hail says:

          That is quite alright, b4w! Thanks for the clarification.

          Interesting that the boxer was already named after a “pro-Black” figure (abolitionist) but then chose an even more radical “pro-Black” name, in Mohammed Ali.

          • Musa Ibraheem says:

            Islam, faith of nearly 2 billion people, is automatically “radical'” to you? That’s truly sad, and proves the effectiveness of propaganda.

          • Fenris the Wolf says:

            Way to take that completely out of context Musa. Why don’t you go pray or something?

  4. IHTG says:

    It would be more interesting if you looked at the British-origin surnames least common among blacks.

  5. Hail says:

    Of interest, corroborating what Jackson wrote above:

    In general, “Many slaves didn’t receive a last name until they were
    freed. Sometimes a slave took (or kept) the last name of their former
    master, or took a common name from the area in which they lived. Some
    African Americans adopted the names of famous Americans such as
    Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, or Clay, or from those who helped
    African Americans at the time, such as the 19th century abolitionist
    John Brown. According to Stuart Berg Flexner in his book Listening to
    America, many African Americans took the last name of Howard in honor
    of General Oliver Otis Howard, who was a Union general in the Civil
    War and head of the Freedman’s Bureau from 1865-1874, and also the
    founder and early president of Howard University. The name Howard
    became so popular a name with African Americans at the time, that in
    the 1980s about one-third of all Howards in the United States were
    African American.”

    (SOURCE: Boston Family History)


    I was completely unaware that so many blacks made up their own names in the 1860s. I wonder what share used their ex-masters’ names vs. how many used new names after emancipation.

  6. Steve Sailer says:

    It was common for newly freed slaves to pick the names of famous and powerful white men, such as Jackson or Washington. One reason was self-protection, to imply that we might have a connection to a powerful white family, so don’t mess with us.

    • Hail says:

      Re name-choosing rationale: I wonder if there’s any ex-slaves who went the opposite way and chose deliberately African names.

      (Either via an ancestral connection, or just made-up to sound African in the tradition of “Malik El-Shabazz” [Malcom X]).

  7. JB says:

    The non-Asian names which you have deemed not “white” among the least black names are not generally “Hispanic” (which is practically a euphemism for mestizo and/or Caribbean mulatto). Orozcos and Ybarras in America are more often descended from Basques, who immigrated to herd sheep and generally mind their own business, not to participate in the Spanish colonial conquest/interbreeding project. They are quite as white as anyone else of European stock.

    I’m convinced you HBD folks should simply abandon the term “Hispanic” – it serves no useful purpose except to foster dissimulation by the ruling elite. Even the mestizos themselves dislike it.

    Excellent blog, by the way.

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  9. Hail says:

    An AP writer has produced a story on this subject:

    Reconstruction-era blacks might have been showing pride in the nation’s history, as George Washington, who died in 1799, was still hugely popular at the time. Alternately, the name could have been a way to maintain ties to plantation owners who continued to be powerful regional figures after the Civil War. Then again, “It’s a myth,” writes Washington, “that most enslaved blacks bore the last name of their owner.” …”Only a handful” of George Washington’s slaves had his name

    Many present-day Washingtons are surprised to learn their name is not 100 percent black.

    The surname study was not repeated in the 2010 Census.

  10. Justin says:

    Why did this just make national news yesterday?

    One irony in them choosing white last names at that time is great, as today, they hate white people so much, they don’t even want to share first names with us!

    • Hail says:

      The AP article I saw was by a black writer named Washington examining the Washington name, which as you can see is far-and-away the USA’s blackest family name.

      Today is President’s Day, formerly known as Washington’s Birthday.

      One way or another, the blackest last names subject was covered here months before AP got it.

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  20. Suz says:

    In West Virginia the Washington family (including several of his brothers) owned numerous plantations. In 1850 there were 20,000 slaves in WV and the Washingtons were the NUMBER ONE owners. They grew tobacco in the 1700’s then switched to wheat and grains when they had leached the soil. The family then profited substantially by exporting those grains overseas. All with slave labor. They didn’t free slaves in WV until 1865. The story has been “white-washed”. The Washingtons weren’t all that heroic in this regard, they were profiteers off of slave labor. Certainly Washington is a common name among the African American population, and this is part of the reason why.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Well, there was George Washington and Thomas Jefferson

  22. Anonymous says:

    Who are not black

  23. Geraldine Davenport says:

    I am having a problem finding my family surname Bird-Byrd, I don’t know if they will be listed as Indians if they are half black?

  24. luwareader says:

    you know i am just reading this and shaking my head . so now us blacks are identified with certain names now? so we cant even go without being judged by something as little as a name you tell me please because my name boluwatiwi is a crowned jewel meaning as god said in yoruba. an the other day i was on microsoft i typed my name and a red line went under. i typed molly, no line claire, no line and honestly i was very pissed our names mean as much as any other ” white name” please just understand that this just offends me greatly.

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  26. Harry says:

    According to the last name Washington is welsh and means,” Estates man from Wassa.” The Wassa are Akan people who live predominantly in Ghana. So why would a white person have that last name? What more than likely happened was these “black people” with this last-name where originally from wales and got kicked out with Queen Elizabeth the first wrote that decree in 1615 and send to the states. George Washington’s great grandfather was one of those people that got kicked out also. Though it is not state why he was. Question solved.

    • Philip Owen says:

      Sorry, no. There is a town in North East England called Washington. George Washingtion’s family came from there. The name is very Englsh. Wass is a personal Angle name. Ingas means family (an extended one) and Ton is their settlement. So it means Wass’s people’s town.

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