2016 10 Best Cities for African Americans
In nearly every news cycle there's a story about the struggles faced by African Americans in our nation’s cities. Sadly, no place has yet to solve all issues of inequality for its residents. However, many smaller to mid-sized U.S. cities offer more level playing fields than their larger counterparts. In this, our inaugural Top 10 Best Cities for African Americans, we spotlight communities that are great places for African Americans to live, work and play.
How did we select the cities? When we create one of our monthly Top 10 lists, we are looking at livability through a certain lens. Those lenses include demographic (families), lifestyle (foodies, beer lovers), life stage (retirees, college towns) as well as our overall Top 100 Best Places to Live (2016) and Top 100 Small Towns.
Our data driven approach begins with basic indicators of livability, including parks, cost of living, Walk Score, climate, crime, and air quality, as well as measures of health care availability and quality, economic equality, and commute time. Editors then looked for areas with higher-than-average populations of African Americans and places where they are succeeding in terms of income, homeownership and academic achievement. Desirability was measured by analyzing areas where African Americans are moving to at higher rates. Finally, editors factored in lifestyle and consumer data from Esri.
The data can only take you so far. Our goal is to create a Top 10 list with choices for everyone. So we narrow down the list looking for cities in a range of sizes and geographies. Interestingly, this list featured an unusual amount of communities housing or surrounding military bases, but there are plenty of other options, as well. In the end, we feel this is a solid cross-section of cities.
As a final bit of affirmation, when we presented the list to the author, Teree Caruthers, it turned out she lives in and loves one of the communities the data had lead us to (La Vergne, TN). So, we got her thumbs up.
But, as always, how do you think we did?
Of all the cities on our list, Frankfort, KY has experienced the greatest increase in number of African Americans. Twenty-one percent of the African-American population in Frankfort has relocated to the city recently. Perhaps one reason is the city's family-friendly environment, as Forbes named it the top Southern small city for families in 2010. Following in their footsteps, we're now making Frankfort one of our Best Cities for African Americans 2016.
For one thing, Frankfort's cost of living index is more than 10 points less than the national average. The average cost of a home is $112,000, compared to upwards of $400,000 for some neighborhoods in Louisville. Frankfort is also the state capital of Kentucky, which means a large number of state government jobs, traditionally filled by significant numbers of African Americans.
Frankfort is home to Kentucky State University, a historically black university, which employs a large number of African-American professionals, as well. Lexington, home to the University of Kentucky and the Toyota motor manufacturing plant, is a mere 30 miles away, which makes for an easy commute if you choose to seek employment there.
Like in many small cities, religious institutions play a major role within the black community in Frankfort. First Baptist Church is one of its oldest churches, and is the largest African American congregation in Frankfort. The church hosted Martin Luther King Jr. during the city's school desegregation efforts. Kentucky State University also offers a full calendar of cultural and sporting events, from theatrical and musical events to Thorobreds basketball and football games and track and field meets.
Kentucky State also hosts the Promising Youth Center for Excellence after-school mentoring program and the Rosenwald Center for Families and Children, which provides child care and multicultural pre-K education. The university's Regional Stewardship & Community Engagement program works with leaders in Frankfort government and nonprofit organizations to improve the quality of life of African-American residents.
Frankfort's central location between Louisville and Lexington means African Americans can take advantage of the cultural and entertainment options these two cities offer. For example, Louisville is home to the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage which documents through exhibits and programs the history of blacks in Louisville and across the state. The Muhammad Ali Center not only celebrates the legacy of the Louisville native, but also promotes diversity and multicultural understanding through interactive and educational exhibits. The city's nightlife offers a mix of live music at places like Howl and the Moon, comedy clubs, restaurants and bars.