From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

U.S. Census: Slave Schedules, Black or Mulatto, Colored

African American slaves were first enumerated in the U.S. Federal Census in 1850 in a separate census called Slave Schedules. The 1850 Census was also the first in which all members of a household were listed by name; prior to 1850, only the heads of households named. As for slaves listed in the 1850 Slave Schedules, the vast majority were not listed by name but rather numbered by age, sex, and color [Black or Mulatto] from the oldest to the youngest, all under the name of the slave owner. Also listed were the reported fugitive and manumitted (freed) slaves and the deaf, blind, insane, and idiotic slaves.

A second slave census was taken in 1860. Kentucky was one of the 18 states included in the 1850 Slave Schedules, and one of the 17 states in the 1860 Slave Schedules.

African American slaves had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 or by the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865. Because Kentucky did not secede from the Union, Kentucky slaves were freed by the ratification of the 13th Amendment. In the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Federal Censuses, African Americans were included as Black or Mulatto. When the 1890 Census was taken, the term "Colored" was also used as a race descriptor for some African Americans, as well as for Chinese, Hawaiians, Japanese, Puerto Ricans, Swiss, Native Americans, and many others.

As early as 1850, the term "Colored" had been used in the U.S. Federal Census and in the census of some individual states to describe free persons who were not White. Well beyond the year 1900 in the United States, the terms Black, Mulatto, and Colored were all used on birth, death, and military records and on ship passenger lists.

For more information about the race descriptors used in the early U.S. Census data, contact the U.S. Census Bureau; see Shades of Citizenship, by M. Nobles; Census and Identity, by D. I. Kertzer and D. Arel; and Encyclopedia of the U.S. Census, by M. J. Anderson.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“U.S. Census: Slave Schedules, Black or Mulatto, Colored,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed March 4, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-04-29 11:34:48