African Americans Undercounted by More than 1 Million in 1940

The census has been an issue with America’s citizens for some time.  There are those who duck the census because they believe that they will be reported to government agencies and find out information that they don’t want the government to know.  But, even with those who give information willingly, the census has its own issues of undercounting.

It was recently discovered that the census performed in 1940, a few folks were left off.  In fact, over one million African Americans were not accounted for. One notable omission was tennis great Althea Gibson and her family.  Her Harlem neighbor and “Manhattan borough historian emeritus” Celedonia “Cal” Jones remembered and told the Grio:

“I know she lived on the block, because she used to dominate the paddle tennis,” Jones said. “Her nickname was ‘tomboy.'”

According to census reports, the blacks were miscounted by 8.4 percent in 1940.  The population count was 12.9 million, but it was supposed to be more like 14.1 million.The census is very important to all communities, but especially minority communities because of how the federal funds are distributed to each area.  The amount of funds released to each city and state is based upon the amount of citizens that populate that city and state.

Phil Sparks, former associate director of the bureau and now co-director of The Census Project, which advocates for an accurate count said:

“It literally can mean the difference of tens of millions, hundreds of millions, of dollars.”

Who knows how this miscount effected the black community for many years to come.   The census is only performed once per decade, so the funds that were lost because of a miscount could have resulted in lower resources to the black community for many years.

Read more here.

-J.C. Brooks

4 thoughts on “African Americans Undercounted by More than 1 Million in 1940”

  1. This story is one to yet be reckoned with, Althea Gibson was a native of South Carolina, like many blacks of the south they left for a better life and especially the blacks from South Carolina migrated to NYC. I am a native of South Carolina and put together a booklet “South Carolina’s Blacks a great migration to NYC” A copy it at the Schomburg Center THanks, Rosa Mavins Boga.

  2. I would like to share that I am happy to see Althea Gibson received this long over-due recognition. This is good for our younger generations to know. I included Gibson in my “Ancestral Wrap” project which came out just before she passed away in 2003.I always treasured her contribution to the World! I noted before that I am a native of South Carolina also.Many blacks from South Carolina migrated to Harlem and Brooklyn. Many played integral roles towards making NYC the great City it is today! Thanks, for allowing the space to share Truth! Rosa Bogar

  3. “In the Spirit of the Black Woman” The black rose will never wither away,by the storms of life not the hurts of day.The black rose stands proud and tall,She can produce in any soil.The black Rose,remains priceless and rare.She possess a beauty no other rose can compare. Thanks for allowing me to share this Truth! Rosa Bogar author of “Black Woman Sorrow” {oral poetry}

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