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10 States With The Largest African-American Populations

African Americans have a long proud cultural history in the U.S., and are working all across the country to overcome generations of unfair practices.

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The proportion of the African-American population in the US states have significantly varied since the days of institutionalized slavery and the Civil War. The changes over the years have largely been dictated by movements in search of better economic opportunities. While the African-Americans have made significant achievements in several fields, they still trail other groups of people in the country in terms of wealth and education.

Trends in African American Population in the US

District of Columbia (50.7% African American)

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the African American population in the District of Columbia (DC) is around 305,125. This accounts for 50.7 percent of the total population, and 0.8 percent of the entire nation’s Black (African American) population. In recent years, the African American population in Washington has declined in a city that has long been a hub of black political movement and culture. In 1980, 70.3 percent of DC's population was black, while from 2000 to 2010 the area's relative African American population declined by 11 percent. Lack of jobs, low educational access, and soaring property prices have combined to force the African American population to leave D.C. and head to other areas like Maryland and Virginia. Historically, D.C. was preferred by African Americans as it was the nation’s capital, and, in 1867, they gained the right to vote there. In 1900, many opportunities for Federal jobs were also extended unto them.

Mississippi (37.3% African American)

Mississippi’s African American Population is 1,098,385, which is 37.3 percent of the state’s population, and 2.8 percent of the entire African American population, as per 2010 the US Census. The state is renowned for Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American man to serve in the U.S Congress in 1870. At the time of his election to Congress, African Americans had gained the right to vote following the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. However, this right was taken away from them not long thereafter. Unemployment among African Americans is still a major problem in the state. Mississippi's African American unemployment rate is the 9th highest among 24 states with measurable black populations. It is also 3 to 4 times higher than that of the white population.

Louisiana (32.4% African American)

Louisiana’s African American population is 1,452,396. This accounts for 32.4 percent of the state’s total population, and 3.7 percent of the nation’s African American population. The state is historically known for producing such notable Blacks as Israel Meyer Augustine Junior (the first African American to become a District Judge in 1970), and the famous Jazz musician and trumpet player Louis Armstrong who was born in a New Orleans ghetto in 1901. Louisiana ranked at 43rd in the nation in terms of black male high school graduation rates. African American poverty levels are the highest of all races in the state. Culturally, African Americans in Louisiana have a rich, longstanding tradition of oral storytelling.

Georgia (30.5% African American)

African Americans in Georgia number around 2,950,435. They account for 30.5 percent of the state’s population, and 7.6 percent of the nation’s African Americans. The state, which has often been dubbed as "The Black Mecca," is the birth and burial place of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. Georgia’s African American population traces its origins to slaves brought there from West Africa between 1750 and 1810. Wealthy rice planters in Georgia relied on West African slaves to grow their rice for export. Booker T. Washington delivered his famous "Atlanta Compromise" speech on September 18, 1895, in Atlanta, the state capital. Poverty levels are still a problem for African Americans in the state. 

Maryland (29.4 % African American)

Maryland’s African American population is 1,700,298, which accounts for 29.4 percent of the state’s population, and 4.4 percent of America’s African American population. Harriet Tubman, a nurse and slave abolitionist, was born in 1820 in this state. Tubman, herself a runaway slave, led hundreds of other slaves to freedom along the escape route known as the "Underground Railroad." This "railroad" was a secret network of safe houses where deserting slaves stayed on their northward journeys to freedom. Still, there are many challenges for African Americans living today in Maryland. Unemployment rates among them are twice those seen among whites. They are also 5.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, according to a 2015 Common Dreams study. They are also 8 times more likely to die of HIV/AIDS complications than whites. In recent years, a subtle form of segregation has come into the education system, as schools have once again become increasingly racially and economically segregated (according to a Civil Rights Project report from 2013).

South Carolina (27.9% African American)

South Carolina’s African American population is 1,290,684, accounting for 27.9 percent of the state’s population and 3.3 percent of the US African American population. The state is known for the Stono Rebellion of September 9th, 1739, which was the largest slave uprising in the colonies before the American Revolution. That day, 20 black slaves met secretly near the Stono River to plan an escape. Later, they went into the local Hutcheson’s store, where they killed two storekeepers and stole the guns and powder they then used to battle against their slave owners, according to America’s Library. In the modern-day, Tim Scott in 2014 became the first African American Republican Senator from South Carolina since the post-Reconstruction period of the late 19th Century. Among African Americans, unemployment is nearly 3 times more than rates among whites according to EPI. Nationally, high school graduation rates for African Americans were 69 percent and the lowest among racial groups, but in South Carolina, these stood at 71 percent, second last after Hispanics, according to the National Center for Education Statistics' 2011-2012 report. Famous black people born in South Carolina include tennis player Althea Gibson, musicians James Brown and Chubby Checker, comedian Chris Rock, activist Jesse Jackson, and many others.

Alabama (26.2% African American)

Alabama’s African American population is 1,251,311, and it accounts for 26.2 percent of the state’s population and 3.2 percent of the nation’s Africa American population according to the 2010 census. Alabama is steeped in black history. In early 1965, protesters led by Martin Luther King Jr., who were yearning for African Americans receiving the right to vote and other basic civil liberties, were met with violent resistance by state and local authorities while marching from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Their protests were part of what triggered the landmark Voting Rights Act to be passed. In the field of education, African Americans in Alabama lag behind other groups. According to a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2011-2012 report, at 67 percent of African Americans had the lowest rate of public high school graduation compared to all other races. Nonetheless, the state is a bastion of black achievements, as former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, sportsmen Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens, Terrell Owens, Charles Barkley, Ozzie Smith, Evander Holyfield, Willie Mays, and Joe Louis, activists Rosa Parks and Richard C. Boone, and musician Nat King Cole are all from Alabama. Still, Alabama grapples with high unemployment rates among its African American populace. In the second quarter of 2015, unemployment among African Americans stood at 10.9 percent, more than double, the white unemployment rates in the state.

North Carolina (21.5% African American)

There are 2,048,628 African Americans in North Carolina, accounting for 21.5 percent of the state’s total population and 5.3 percent of the nation’s African American population. Abolitionists Harriet Jacobs and Thomas H Jones were born here, as was Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, an educator. In 1902, Dr. Hawkins founded the Palmer Memorial Institute that educated 2,000 African American students throughout its 70-year long history, according to the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. Still, today graduation rates for African Americans are the second-lowest among races in the state after Hispanics, according to a 2011-2012 report by the National Center for Education Statistics. Unemployment is also a problem in the state and, according to a 2015 US Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the rate of African American unemployment currently stands at 10.3 percent, which is almost double the entire nation’s average of 5.3 percent. In the modern-day, Henry Frye made history as the first African American Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1983. The state is also the birthplace of boxers Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Patterson, musicians Max Roach, Ben E, King, and Nina Simone, attorney Loretta Lynch, and dancer Harold Nicholas.

Delaware (21.4% African American)

Delaware’s African American population is around 191,814, which accounts for 21.4 percent of the state’s total population and 0.5 percent of the nation’s African American population. The first-ever documented African American in Delaware (which was then New Sweden) was a West Indies slave named Antoni Swart. The first perpetrators of black slavery in Delaware were the Dutch, who had settled there in 1631. In 1776, the state’s senate made a declaration against slavery in the first constitution. 1787 slave masters were fined 20 pounds, and many slaves freed. Nonetheless, Delaware was one of the last states in the nation to allow slavery to remain. Prominent African Americans from Delaware include desegregation activist Louis Redding, Herman M. Holloway Sr., the first African American elected to the state’s Senate, and Dr. Eugene McGowan, the first African American psychologist in the state’s public school system. Unemployment in Delaware among African Americans stands at 12 percent. Graduation rates for African Americans in Delaware were the lowest in 2014 among all other races. Furthermore, a 2014 report released by the Center for Community Service and Research at the University of Delaware stated that African Americans in the state are twice more likely to live in poverty than whites living there.

Virginia (19.4% African American)

The African American population in Virginia is around 1,551,399, accounting for 19.4 percent of the state’s total population and 4 percent of the nation’s African American population. African Americans have lived in the state since 1619 when a Dutch ship sold about 20 African slaves here. As black slavery took root in Virginia after 1680, the numbers of African Americans increased. By 1704, 10,000 slaves were living in Virginia. Slavery was officially abolished in 1865 but black civil rights remained largely ignored for many years thereafter. Despite the challenges, Virginia produced many notable black personalities. Arthur Ashe was the first African American man to win a tennis grand slam (the Wimbledon and the U.S Open). Willie Lanier became the first African American to play middle linebacker for Kansas City Chiefs. Virginia also produced the civil rights leaders James Farmer and Irene Morgan

Odds Being Overcome, and Shifting Trends

Regardless of the ongoing challenges in academic and employment opportunities for African Americans in the U.S., there are still exceptionally talented black individuals excelling and becoming prominent people in their respective states and nation. These achievers are dispelling the traditional myths associated with the views of many on the progress of African Americans in the country.

Percentage Of African-American Population By State

RankUS States With The Largest Relative African American Populations Alone Or In Combination With Other Races, Per 2010 US Census
1District of Columbia 50.7% African American
2Mississippi 37.3% African American
3Louisiana 32.4% African American
4Georgia 31.4% African American
5Maryland 30.1% African American
6South Carolina 28.5% African American
7Alabama 26.4% African American
8North Carolina 21.6% African American
9Delaware 21.0% African American
10Virginia 19.9% African American

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