When you think of Florida and African-American prosperity, Tallahassee, FL is probably not the first city that comes to mind. But the capital city, which boasts an African-American population of more than 100,000, just might be one of the state's best kept secrets, and why we named it our #1 City for African Americans.
According to the Department of Labor, African Americans are more likely to be employed in the public sector, and nearly 20 percent of employed African American work for state, local or federal governments. As the capital of Florida, Tallahassee is home to more than 30 state government agencies along with law firms, trade associations and professional organizations, which provide a number of job opportunities for the city's African Americans. The Florida Conference of Black State Legislators, for example, is headquartered in Tallahassee.
Tallahassee is home to Florida State University, one of the country's top public research universities, and Florida A&M University, one of the nation's largest historically black universities. With so much brain power, it's easy to see why Tallahassee and Leon County have the most highly educated population in the state. Half of the city's residents have a college degree, compared to just 22 percent statewide and 24 percent nationally, and Leon County's high schools have consistently boasted a drop out rate of less than 3 percent.
The universities also provide both economic and cultural opportunities for African Americans. FSU and FAMU are the city's second and eighth largest employers, respectively. The universities also partner with the state department of education to sponsor K-12 "lab schools." FAMU's Developmental Research School emphasizes a STEM-based curriculum, and FSU's university schools focus on research-based learning and community service.
"Tallahassee is a great city for African Americans because it hosts a diverse body of citizens consisting of families and students who attend many of the leading institutions of higher education and because it allows easy access to the political epicenter of our state government and promotes a strong sense of community," says Benjamin L. Crump, noted civil rights attorney, co-founder of Parks and Crump law firm and a longtime Tallahassee native. Crump has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown, among others.
Crump's wife, Dr. Genae Crump, echoes that sentiment.
"Tallahassee is also a great place for African Americans because it's reasonably affordable, and there are so many opportunities to get involved in cultural events that are offered by the universities and community college, as well as community-based programs," she says.
Both FSU and FAMU regularly host educational and cultural programs geared toward empowering the African-American community. For example, the Black Male Initiative at FSU works to recruit more African-American men to the university and then offers a support network during their matriculation. The school's Black Student Union, which recently was awarded a grant to build a new headquarters on campus, hosts seminars and discussions on race relations. FAMU hosts theatrical productions, musical performances and speakers throughout the year as well as the annual Harambee Festival, celebrating the city's multicultural heritage, each February.
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Tallahassee is also home to the John G. Riley Center/Museum of African American History & Culture and the Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum. The 100 Black Men of Tallahassee's Saturday Academy provides mentoring, tutoring and college and career readiness training to African American kids.
Tallahassee's pro-business environment makes it easier for African Americans to start their own businesses. A number of resources and networking opportunities are available to black business owners, including the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce, a regional organization which helps promote minority owned businesses in order to stimulate the north Florida economy, and the Florida Small Business Development Center at Florida A&M University, which offers consulting services and training for student and community entrepreneurs. Then there's the Minority, Women & Small Business Enterprise Division of Leon County and the Florida State University Supplier Diversity Program – both established to ensure a fair representation of African-American-owned vendors for the state and university.