In partnership with the Church, IPUMS (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series) has recently made the entire 1850-1890 set of census data available in tabular (spreadsheet) form for analysis. While individual records have been available for some time, as has a 1% sample of the quantitative data, this new development allows us to download all of the census responses for the 19th century at once. As you can imagine, this is a fairly large file (I have a lot of juice in my laptop and I stopped trying to crunch all of the 19th-century US data after waiting for 20 minutes), but if you subset Utah it is much more manageable. The wonderful IPUMS folks have harmonized the different questions asked across time so that you can make comparisons across decennial censuses.
Running a simple frequency cross-tab with race shows how many people of each race were identified in the respective census in Utah.
|Year||White||Black||Native American||Chinese||Japanese||Other Asian|
A few points:
- Unless you think there were only 31 Native Americans in 1850 It’s clear that the Native American numbers aren’t worth much; perhaps they weren’t super enthusiastic about participating in the occupier’s people-counting rituals.
- It looks like there were about 20 Black people with the early pioneer parties. I’m sure at this point researchers better versed in Latter-day Saint racial history can give names. Unfortunately the IPUMS data doesn’t have a field for which of the 20 in 1850 and 45 in 1860 were slaves, but I believe the original census documents do. (Also, census data collection back in the day had, shall we say, less quality control than now; some of these numbers are going to be somewhat off).
- I was surprised that there appeared to be more Chinese in pioneer-era Utah than Black people; from Googling it looks like these were railroad workers. Still, the 19th-century Chinese-Utahn population wasn’t something I knew about before I crunched these numbers.
- I’m not sure what to make of the jump in Black people from 1900 to 1910. The quantitative history of race in the US is a little fraught definitionally since the Census Bureau keeps changing the wording and options, so there might be an issue there, or it could be some wave of immigration. I have no idea, historians of race would hopefully know more about this.
- We rightfully talk about active or or subtle discrimination against racial minorities, but just looking at these raw numbers the feeling that pops out to me is simply one of loneliness. Having only 20 members of one’s socio-racial group in the whole state seems like late-stage Moroni-level solitariness.