Category Archives: Research

The Black Population of Cambridge by Census Year, 1790 – 2020

George Washington Lewis Jr. family at 47 Parker
Street. Photo ca. 1900. The Lewis Family, a large extended family, were a well known African American family who first established roots in Cambridge in the early 19th Century.
Census Year Total PopulationNumber of Black ResidentsPercent of Population
17902,115602.8%
18002,453251.0%
18102,32339*1.7%
18203,295531.6%
18306,072791.3%
18408,409770.9%
185015,215140**0.9%
186026,0603541.3%
187039,6348222.1%
188052,6691,5042.9%
189070,0281,9882.8%
190091,8863,8884.2%
1910104,8394,7074.5%
1920109,6945,3344.9%
1930113,6435,4194.8%
1940110,8794,8584.4%
1950120,7405,2804.4%
1960107,7165,6715.3%
1970100,3616,7836.8%
198095,32210,41810.9%
199095,80212,93013.5%
2000101,35512,07911.9%
2010105,16212,25311.7%
2020118,40812,52010.6%

*includes West Cambridge (1 person)
*includes 41 listed as Mulatto and 99 listed as Black

Citations:
1790, 1800, 1820, 1840, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1940, 1960, 1980, 2000: from Slavery and Its Aftermath in Cambridge by Charles Sullivan, Executive Director, Cambridge Historical Commission, 13 January 2021. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/citymanagersoffice/monumentsadvisorycommittee/Slavery_and_its_Aftermath_in_Cambridge.pdf.

1810: Total from column, “all other free persons except Indians not taxed,” in 1810 census

1830: Total from column, “free colored persons,” in 1830 census

1850: Counted total from race column in the 1850 census

1870: Census totaled from race column in the 1870 census. Column totaled as “colored” and includes Black and Mulatto. Ward 1: 87; Ward 2: 626; Ward 3: 9; Ward 4: 82; Ward 5: 18. Total 822.

1890: Compendium of the Eleventh Census: 1890, Part I Population, Department of the Interior, Census Office, 1892. Cambridge is on page 552. Available here: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Compendium_of_the_Eleventh_Census_1890_P/L2tVWSA9xUAC?hl=en&gbpv=1

1900-1910: Negro population in the United States, 1790-1915, edited by William Loren Katz, 1968. Available here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=pst.000053752499&view=1up&seq=104&skin=2021&size=125&q1=cambridge1950: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1950/population-volume-2/38840572v2p21ch4.pdf.

1910-1930: Negroes in the United States, 1920-1932, by United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1935. Available here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112047636300&view=1up&seq=83&size=125&q1=cambridge

1970: 1970 Census of Population, Characteristics of the Population, Massachusetts, 1973. Available here: https://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1970a_ma-01.pdf

1990: Comparison of Cambridge, MA. U. S. Census Short Form Results:
1980, 1990 & 2000
, Cambridge Community Development, 17 May 2004. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/FactsandMaps/PopulationData/Citywide/census_1980to2000_sf1_comp.pdf

2010: Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010
Demographic Profile Data
, U.S. Census Bureau, 27 June 2011. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/FactsandMaps/PopulationData/Citywide/census_2010_sf1_profile.pdf

2020: Cambridge: Population and People, U.S. Census Bureau. Available here: https://data.census.gov/cedsci/profile?g=1600000US2511000

Cambridge Population: From Cambridge, Massachusetts Wikipedia Page, Demographics. Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge,_Massachusetts#Demographics

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Historic Newspapers Are for Everyone!

The Cambridge Public Library’s Archives and Special Collections has a widely used and very popular online collection of the Library’s collection of Cambridge newspapers, published between 1946 and 2015. These papers have been made freely available to anyone with an internet connection.

So what happens to our shared cultural heritage when for profit companies like newspapers.com, put these newspapers behind a paywall?

Read this short, great article by Michael Peever, of the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection, titled CHNC and the Online Historic Newspaper Landscape, to learn about the current issues surrounding online historic newspapers and what you can do as a researcher to support cultural heritage institutions.

Happy Birthday James Baldwin!

Celebrated American author James Baldwin would have turned 96 yesterday. In honor of his birthday, we’re posting these amazing photographs of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin (CRLS) Black Student Union meeting Baldwin at Northeaster University’s African American Center in 1986. Baldwin, pictured in the center, died the following year.

These photographs are from the Caroline Hunter Papers. Hunter, a life long activist and retired CRLS math teacher and assistant principal, donated her papers to the Cambridge Public Library in 2019. We are working diligently to make them available to the public.

She Votes! Suffrage Podcast

As you’re surely aware, August 26 is the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. And it comes during a pivotal election which may well hinge on the women’s vote. Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer-prize winning Boston Globe columnist, and Lynn Sherr, former ABC news correspondent, are co-hosting a new podcast called She Votes! telling the definitive story of the women’s suffrage movement with all its glory and shortcomings. You can listen to it here on Apple Podcasts or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.