During the Great Migration (1910-1970), when some six million African Americans migrated from the rural South to urban centers in the Northeast, Midwest and West, many blacks left Georgia for states such as New York, Ohio and Illinois. Beginning in the late 1970s, though, as northern industrial jobs started to dry up and opportunities opened up in a more integrated South, African Americans began returning "home." Nowhere is this new migration more apparent than the Atlanta metro area, long hailed as the mecca for the black middle class.
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Stockbridge, GA, a community 20 miles southeast of Atlanta, is a perfect example of African-American advancement in the New South. Although one of the smallest cities on our list – with a population of 27,000 – more than 57 percent of it is African-American. Of all the cities on our list, Stockbridge has the lowest poverty rate among African-Americans and the lowest income disparity between blacks and whites. In fact, African Americans make an average of $7,000 more than their white neighbors in Stockbridge, while 56 percent own their own homes.
This, and many more reasons, is why we named Stockbridge one of the Best Cities for African Americans in the U.S.
But why isn't it higher on our list? Well, for one, it has the unfair advantage of being part of the Atlanta MSA, which has the third-highest percentage of African Americans nationwide, and boasts the third-highest total of African-American households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more.
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But of all the communities surrounding Atlanta's perimeter, Stockbridge and Henry County are growing the fastest. Henry County's African-American population has grown by 12 percent in the last decade. One reason is the affordability of housing. The average home price in Henry County is $145,000, compared to $212,000 in Fulton County – Atlanta's city center, and renters in Henry County are the least-burdened in the metro area. Only 11 percent spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent.
Another reason is quality-of-life conveniences. Stockbridge is home to Piedmont Henry Hospital and the Henry County Performing Arts Center. Stockbridge is part of the Henry County School system, which is an open school district, meaning parents have a choice as to which school they want their children to attend, regardless of school zoning.
While it's true that many Stockbridge residents work outside the community, African-American families will be pleasantly surprised to know that 13 percent of businesses in Stockbridge are African-American owned. This includes a significant number of professional services, such as physicians, lawyers and financial services.
"I love Stockbridge," says resident Carrie Kellogg. "The school district is good, and the teachers communicate well with you about your child's progress. Most people here don't look at color. Everyone is friendly and will wave and say hello, and your neighbors – whether black, white or Puerto Rican – all get along just fine."