The Black Middle Class is Creating New Cities. HBCUs Should Be the Anchors for the New Migration.

Last week, the Christian Science Monitor profiled the town of Stonecrest, GA., a recently incorporated city with a predominantly black residential composition and a world of potential for its economic future. The city is an offshoot of ‘Black Flight’ from the rising costs and urban sprawl of cities like Atlanta.

Stonecrest is part of an increasing number of cities cropping up around the country with African Americans and other ethnic minority groups seeking more socioeconomic autonomy.

From the Monitor:

Between 1990 and 2010, 44 majority-minority cities sprang into existence across the US, including the transformation of colonias in Texas, the creation of Asian-majority cities in California, and a new Native American city in Oklahoma that incorporated largely to focus more resources on a rampant drug problem.

Emerging evidence shows that majority-minority cities such as Stonecrest “can control their own destiny,” says Leora Waldner, public administration professor at Troy University in Alpharetta, Ga., who tracked these new cities and found them nearly universally successful. “They have a seat at the bargaining table for regional issues, they protect themselves from undesirable land uses, and they can and do take on environmental [and social] justice initiatives.” 

She adds: “Black or brown communities creating their own cities from unincorporated areas – that can be a potent civil rights tool.”

But what does this movement mean for historically black colleges in states like Georgia and other rural areas where undeveloped land may be plentiful, but buy-in from corporations and high-earning black folks is slow?

Civic Autonomy in Action

Albany State University and the Putnam County Charter School System recently wrapped the inaugural edition of their joint college preparatory summer camp program. The initiative welcomed 45 students to the ASU campus to learn about applying for college and entry exams, financial aid, career selection and professional and personal development.

It’s the kind of partnership that is becoming more frequent as colleges look to build pipelines with secondary school districts, to help in stabilizing enrollment and workforce development. Companies are willing to finance pathways from ninth grade through college graduation, if it helps to create a skilled motivated worker.

And few areas in Georgia could use it more. Black folks represent 44% of Putnam County’s population living below the poverty line but only 26% of its total population. The likeliest places where residents will land a job are on a college campus, at a manufacturing company or in a retail business.

What if Stonecrest, Stockbridge and other all-black community experiments pushed a little further out to HBCUs, particularly those facing downturns in population and commercial development? Memphis, Montgomery, AL and Atlanta remain the three top cities for new black entrepreneurship, and the cities where African Americans are faring well economically, HBCUs are among the largest employers and cultural centers.

But to save the most vulnerable of institutions in the most remote of locations, it may require for black folks to look at institutional anchors as the key to springing up new cities and towns. What Albany State is doing in its region, Central State University is doing in Wilberforce, OH and Xenia; working to create new and stronger industries that pair well with their academic offerings and the future of work in the state.

CSU is the second HBCU, following Southern University, to create a stake in the marijuana research and development industry, and was announced last week as one of two institutions in the state approved to operate a marijuana testing lab.

HBCUs power secondary education, health and social science transfer, political influence and criminal justice stability for predominantly black communities. Building around these schools, seemingly, would expedite the efforts of African Americans seeking to shape their own civic destinies. Its just a matter of which groups of black folks, particularly HBCU alumni, are willing to take the bold step of coming home to build around alma mater.

 

10 comments
  1. It amazing, how quickly we forget. This same concept which you write about was done in Atlanta around the AU complex; in Nashville around Fisk, Meharry, TSU; in Grambling around GSU, etc. Those were strong middle class black communities that supported and encouraged a sense of purpose in all areas for black people..

  2. I feel the need to have civic autonomy and a “well-to-do” black middle class everyday. Ever since I was a child my family always decided to live close to each other. The homes could be around the corner, next door, a block up etcetera and this is how we took good care of each other and stayed close. It’s like that even now! Although there aren’t any HBCU’s where I live that could be apart of building and maintaining a vibrant black middle class, I would certainly love to make that a reality.❤️

  3. This is not a new phenomenon. It’s been going on since the 40s and 50s throughout the South where hbcus are located. I myself grew up adjacent to an HBCU in North Carolina where my parents graduated from. The community I lived in consisted of mostly professional blacks – those that taught at the University or within the public school system that were educated at this particular University – Fayetteville State. If you look back, you will notice most well-to-do black communities surrounded or were adjacent to an HBCU in the area because this is where educated blacks could live in harmony.

  4. Communities are one thing, but these are cities being incorporated, bonded and seeking to build collective economic impact. It’s not just neighborhoods or even towns; these are new zip codes it’s new opportunities for black folks. HBCUs should be at the heart of this movement.

  5. Hello Mr. Carter. This is an interesting post. As I am originally from Richmond, Virginia, I can relate to the above
    comment by “Anonymous.”

    With regard to HBCU “engagement,” how probable is it to envision new HBCUs, or satellite fsciloties, or the establishment of otjer institutions with a stronger vision of diversity?

    On another, more somber point, let us not forget the legacies of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Overtown, Florida other communities that prospered and later became targets for ethnic backlash.

  6. Excellent ideas. While they aren’t new, these ideas aren’t pervasive in the communities being discussed as over the past 50 years “the Black experience” has been more divergent and less “universal”. Also, as a resident of Stonecrest, GA, I’d like to point out that our 95% Black population includes thousands of West Indian and African immigrant families and transplants from Northern US cities who have very different experiences from those of us born and raised in Southern US cities – where the majority of HBCUs are located.

    Satellite or 2-year campuses of AC Center HBCUs would present significant development opportunities for Stonecrest, GA.

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