How Did Washington Become ‘The Blackest Name in America?’

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American educator Booker T. Washington wrote in his autobiography that he made up his own last name

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According to the U.S. Census, the ‘blackest’ surname in America is Washington. Of all the 163,036 people with the last name Washington on the 2000 census, 90% were black.

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The Associated Press has written a comprehensive history of the last name, but NewsFeed thought we’d highlight the more interesting facts:

  • Enslaved blacks often didn’t have a surname, so they chose their own.  The AP says it’s a “myth” that they always picked their owners’ last names.  Often they picked something entirely different. Understandably, George Washington’s name was a popular choice.
  • Twelve U.S. Presidents owned slaves, though only eight had them while in office. Of those, George Washington was the only President to free his slaves.  He ordered them to be freed after his wife’s death.
  • Booker T. Washington made up his own last name.
  • Half of the non-black Washingtons are white. Thirty percent are mixed-race. The rest are either Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander.
  • The next “blackest” names were Jefferson and Williams.
  • The surname Black is 68% white.  White is 19% black.

The statistical information is from the 2000 U. S. Census, of course.  Did anything change for the 2010 Census? We don’t know—the practice of cross-referencing racial data with last names wasn’t repeated this time around. For more fun facts, check out the Associated Press article.

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