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Northern towns with significant black populations: 1900 and 1920

Super Amputee Cat

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I came across some interesting statistics while researching Cairo last night.

Here are the Northern cities with the largest black proportions of total population in 1900 and 1920. This includes all northern cities above 10,000 in population and a black population of at least 5,000 or 10% of the total population. Only cities in true northern states are included, with those in "border" states such as Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, W. Virginia, and Delaware excluded.

1900

1. Cairo 39.8% percent black
2. Atlantic City 23.4%
3. West Chester, PA 18.7%
4. Jeffersonville, IN 16.9%
5. Chester, PA 13.0%
6. Evansville, IN 12.7%
7. Steelton, PA 12.5%
8. Springfield, OH 11.1%
9. Montclair, NJ 9.6%
10. Indianapolis 9.4%
11. Harrisburg, PA 8.2%
12. Orange, NJ 7.9%
13. Coatesville, PA 7.5%
14. Camden, NJ 7.3%
15. Murpheysboro, IL 7.1%


1920

1. Cairo 32.9%
2. Ashbury Park, NJ 22.8%
3. Atlantic City, NJ 21.6%
4. West Chester, PA 15.6%
4. Jeffersonville, IN 14.0%
6. Steelton, PA 14.0%
7. Coatesville, PA 13.0%
8. Chester, PA 12.3%
9. Montclair, NJ 12.0%
10. Springfield, OH 11.6%
11. East St. Louis, IL 11.1%
12. Indianapolis 11.0%
13. Orange, NJ 10.9%
14. Murpheysboro, IL 10.3%
15. Gary 9.6%

Cairo had far and away the highest black proportion of any of these cities, but its also interesting to see places such as Chester PA and Springfield, Ohio on there.

Some cities maintained a relatively stable black population during that era, while others saw a massive migration to their cities. Ashbury Park, NJ for example was only 6.6% black in 1900 but had jumped to the second blackest city in the North by 1920.

(Of course, it is possible that some of these cities may have annexed land that may have already had large numbers of blacks beforehand, so these changes in rankings should be interpreted with caution).

Glaringly absent from the list is the city of Detroit, which was only 4.1% African American in 1920. Other cities, which we have come to recognize as "black cities", such as E. St. Louis, Camden, and Gary were all still less than 12% African American in 1920. Camden, in fact, which remained 7.3 black in 1920, was knocked out of the Top 15, as the aggragate percentages increased across the board.
 
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jresta

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Sorry but this is a pet peeve of mine, it's ASBURY Park.
There's no H in Asbury. It has nothing to do with the hippy hangout in San Francisco.

I grew up in the town just south of Asbury Park - Bradley Beach.
James Bradley who used to vacation in the Methodist camp of Ocean Grove (nestled between the two towns) bought the 600 acres north of Ocean Grove and named it after the founder of the Methodist church in America - Francis Asbury.

Bradley planned the town all at once. It's the same size today as it was 120 years ago so annexation had nothing to do with a large black influx. Besides, all of this land was part of already incorporated townships. Once a sizeable population existed these new planned communities broke away from the townships by incorporating as a borough. Asbury Park is a beautifully planned town. Bradley was brilliant. Incidentally, the new urbanist firm DPZ was hired for the revitalization plans.

None of the towns (in NJ&PA) on this list were big cities. Even at their peak none of them topped 100k people (maybe AC flirted with 100k) Asbury Park had a population high of about 15,000 for instance. West Chester, PA was similar.

The history of the black population in NJ and eastern PA is peculiar. When you have the two biggest cities in the country at either end of your state (100 miles apart) land is going to be expensive. Local blacks just didn't own land in any numbers and certainly couldn't afford to buy it. They weren't free, for a host of reasons, to dispurse throughout the countryside and there was no point in going to Newark or Camden or where you'd have to compete not only with local blacks there but with hordes of european immigrants. As a result they settled in local centers (which by the way all appear to have been local railroad hubs).
It's also important to remember the significant event that occured between 1900 and 1920. WWI.
Don't forget that factories were sending scouts down south to hand out train tickets to sharecropping blacks. A lot of the northern blacks didn't get along well with the rowdy 'country folk' so they left the big cities and settled in the smaller towns that already had a black community.


Asbury/Monmouth County is a perfect example. The county, like the rest of NJ was mostly horse or produce farms. Black people in Monmouth Co. lived in Asbury, Long Branch, Freehold and Red Bank. Period, the end. That's just the way it was, and the for the most part, still is. The Jersey Shore, especially the northern half of it is ridiculously white. Around 90% if you include Ocean Co. While the black population in these towns remains relatively high they are steadily becoming a smaller percentage of the population. This is due somewhat to a growing Latino population but largely due to a South Asian population driven in large part (however stereotypical it sounds) by Bell Labs, Lucent, CECOM, Bellcore, etc. calling Monmouth Co. home.

In the Philly suburbs it's the same thing. Especially on the PA side of the river. You'll only find significant black communities in the older towns that immediately surround the city. On the NJ side it's not as obviously segregated in Camden County but in Burlington and Gloucester it's pretty much the same situation as in Monmouth Co.

When i was in the army my friends from down south were really surprised at the level of segregation.
 

Hceux

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An idea

I wonder if the latitudinal position of these cities are an issue to consider. For example, if these "northern" cities are located towards more to the south, then would they have greater popultaion of the Blacks?
 

JivecitySTL

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Even though Missouri is popularly considered a border state, it was always part of the Union, and therefore, decidedly northern. St. Louis was a huge entrepot for southern blacks migrating to the north. I think this famous painting by Jacob Lawrence, titled The Great Migration, says it best:



Missouri's social, cultural, economic, industrial and develomental history has much more in common with the North than it does with the South. Thank STL for that!
 

Super Amputee Cat

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JivecitySTL said:
Even though Missouri is popularly considered a border state, it was always part of the Union, and therefore, decidedly northern. St. Louis was a huge entrepot for southern blacks migrating to the north. I think this famous painting by Jacob Lawrence, titled The Great Migration, says it best:



Missouri's social, cultural, economic, industrial and develomental history has much more in common with the North than it does with the South. Thank STL for that!
But wasn't Missouri a slave state, at least during it's infancy? (Of course, so was New York)

There were a few Missouri cities on the tables that had significant black populations as well. I'll try and post them tomorrow. Kansas was the same way. The point of the chart was to show some unusual cases of northern cities that for some reason or another, were attractive to blacks.

Of course, as was pointed out by Hceux, most were still relatively far south latitude wise. Very few are above the 40th Parallel. In fact, Cairo, Evansville and Jeffersonville are right on the Ohio River, and thus easy accessable for blacks migrating from the south.
 

Dan

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Even in the north, weren't there always suburban villages or hamlets with largely black populations? These areas might not show up when researching Census statistics, because they would be only a small part of a larger town.

Outside of St. Louis, Kinloch was one such village; a small, predominantly black enclave almost completely surrounded by white suburbs. When North County experienced racial transition in the 1990s, though, Kinloch was no longer an enclave.

Colorado had quite a few black agricultural colonies, but those mostly disbanded in the later half of the 20th century.

I don't think Buffalo had any suburban black enclaves. There is one upper middle class subdivision where most residents are black, in the otherwise predominantly white suburb of Grand Island, but that's about it.
 

mike gurnee

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The 'mass exodus' was not only black. Share croppers of all colors left the farms for better lives. Decades ago I read an oral history of how nearly an entire town in appalachia moved to a Cincinnati neighborhood (suburb?) in the 20s.
 

Cardinal

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In the 1960's there was a mass migration of people from the deep south to Rockford, Illnoise, which explains a lot. (Sorry, deep Southerners.)

There was a largely black rural community in Southwestern Wisconsin in the mid-1800's that was, from all accounts, well integrated into the larger population. By the mid-1900's it had pretty much disbanded. There was an article in the newpaper around the time of the Sesquicentennial that interviewed the few remaining people who grew up there.
 

Super Amputee Cat

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Here are some stats for black populations in border states for 1900 and 1920

1900

1. Henderson, KY 39.2%
2. Lexington, KY 38.4%
3. Annapolis, MD 35.2%
4. Columbia, MO 33.9%
5. Washington, DC 31.1%
6. Paducah, KY 29.9%
7. Owensboro KY 23.2%
8. Louisville, KY 19.1%
9. Jefferson City, MO 18.9%
10. Lawrence, KS 18.7%
11. Frederick, MD 16.5%
12. Coffeyville, KS 16.2%
12. Bluefield, WV 16.2%
14. Charleston, WV 16.1%
15. Athchison, KS, 16.0%
16. Baltimore, MD 15.6%
17. Leavenworth, KS 14.1%
18. Kansas City, KS 12.7%
18. Wilmington, DE 12.7%
20. Kansas City, MO 10.7%

__. St. Louis, MO 6.2%


1920

1. Lexington, KY 30.0%
2. Annapolis, MD 26.3%
3. Washington, DC 25.1%
4. Henderson, KY 24.4%
5. Peducah, KY 22.6%
6. Columbia, MO 18.5%
7. Bluefield, WV 17.8%
8. Louisville, KY 17.1%
9. Owensboro, KY 16.3%
10. Charleston, WV 16.1%
11. Baltimore 14.8%
12. Kansas City, KS 14.2%
13. Jefferson City, MO 13.6%
14. Atchison, KS 11.9%
15. Lawrence, KS 11.8%
16. Leavenworth, KS 11.8%
17. Frederick, MD 11.2%
18. Coffeyville, KS 11.0%

19. Wilmington, DE 9.8%
20. Kansas City, MO 9.5%
21. St. Louis 9.0%

Note: This chart only includes towns that are above 10,000 in population in 1920, plus have at least 5,000 blacks or the black population accounts for at least 10% of the total population. Thus it is possible that there were towns that had over a 10% black population in 1900 that are not listed on this chart because the town did not meet the criteria for 1920.

A couple of observations:

Unlike the northern towns listed in the previous post, most of these places' black populations dropped between 1900 and 1920, in terms of percentage.

Cairo, Illinois still remains at the top spot of all these cities in both 1900 and 1920 in terms of black percentage.
 

sleepy

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But wasn't Missouri a slave state, at least during it's infancy? (Of course, so was New York)

There were a few Missouri cities on the tables that had significant black populations as well. I'll try and post them tomorrow. Kansas was the same way. The point of the chart was to show some unusual cases of northern cities that for some reason or another, were attractive to blacks.

Of course, as was pointed out by Hceux, most were still relatively far south latitude wise. Very few are above the 40th Parallel. In fact, Cairo, Evansville and Jeffersonville are right on the Ohio River, and thus easy accessable for blacks migrating from the south.
Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland, along with D.C., were all states where slavery was legal until 1865.

I recall in the Soulard area of St. Louis seeing many old houses with slave quarters in the back. I've also seen those in Baltimore and New Orleans.

I know that St. Louis was anti-secessionist, but much of the rest of Missouri was strongly pro-slavery. During the 1850's, cotton was grown and farmed by slaves along the Missouri River between St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as in parts of the Bootheel, where it is still grown today and which still has a relatively large black population.
 
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