s Tennessee's Black Population

Tennessee's Black Population

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Residential Distribution

Blacks in Tennessee are overwhelmingly urban in their residential patterns. According to the Census figures, 90 percent of the blacks in Tennessee were classified as urban, while only 10 percent were classified as rural.

Six cities in the state have a population of more than 75,000 (see table below). Within these six cities, blacks represent 39.0 percent of the population, more than double the proportion in the state. Furthermore, 67.8 percent of all Tennessee blacks reside in these six cities. This represents no increase from the 2000 Census, when blacks also constituted 39.0 percent of the population in these cities, and the blacks in these cities represented 71.1 percent of all Tennessee blacks. Overall, the black population in these six cities grew by only 8.1 percent. The white population grew in each of the cities, while two of the six cities lost white population between 2000 and 2010. The greatest gains tended to be in cities in the Middle and Western divisions, while smaller gains were registered by cities in the Eastern Division. This tendency of blacks to concentrate in metropolitan or major urbanized areas is similar in each of the three divisions in the state, and this fact should be significant for businesses as well as governments in Tennessee.


The data reviewed in this study indicate that the decline in the black population in Tennessee, noted in the earlier decades of the 20th century, has slowed and reversed, with the largest percentage gain occurring between 1990 and 2010. Although the proportion of blacks to total population has continued its historic decline, this appears to be stabilizing. This decline is not uniform across the regions of the state: the Western Division experienced a larger increase in proportion of blacks; the Middle and Eastern divisions experienced only a slight increase. More important, the data reveal the continuing urbanization of the black population in the state. Major urban areas in the state have continued to be a draw for blacks, and the black-to-total population ratio has increased. Even if no further information were available, these facts alone should be helpful to firms producing goods and services in Tennessee.

Six cities in the state have a population of more than 75,000. Within these six cities, blacks represent 39.0 percent of the population, more than double the proportion in the state.

Black and White Population in Tennessee Cities of 75,000+ in 2000 and 2010

       Blacks                        Whites
  2000 2010 Change   2000 2010 Change
Memphis 399,208 409,687 2.6%   223,728 190,120 -15.0%
Nashville 146,235 170,907 16.9%   359,581 363,611 1.1%
Knoxville 28,171 30,567 8.5%   138,611 136,097 -1.8%
Chattanooga 56,086 58,507 4.3%   92,874 97,202 4.7%
Clarksville 24,030 30,798 28.2%   70,254 87,135 24.0%
Murfreesboro 9,560 16,510 72.7%   54,947 82,240 50.0%

As the changes noted in this paper develop further and the black population continues to grow, there will likely be changes in migration and age patterns as well as the occupation and wage structure for Tennessee. Thus, it is important that researchers begin looking at these variables, especially the latter two, since they should lead to a greater accumulation of capital, better social networking, and an upgrading of professional experience and competence. This trend will have important implications for state and local governments in Tennessee that must supply services to their citizenry. It is also important to distributors as well as to financial intermediaries, producers, and other businesses who might well benefit from a better understanding of market patterns and the demand for goods and services of this important and expanding urban component of the state's population.

Acknowledgment and Disclaimer

This population data is based upon work supported by Randy Gustafson, director, Tennessee State Data Center. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Tennessee State Data Center.


Population estimates in this report are taken from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Local Population Estimates, Current Population Reports, 03 June, 2011.

Hollman, Kenneth W., and E. Nolan Waller. (1981). "Mississippi's Minority Population." Mississippi’s Business, 40 (December) 3:1-10.

Lamon, Lester C. (1981). Blacks in Tennessee: 1791-1970, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Moser, H. Ronald, and Horace E. Johns. (2011). "Economic and Marketing Observations on the Population Changes in Tennessee," Journal of Business and Economic Perspectives.

Moser, H. Ronald, and Terry Tomazic. (1986). "Patterns In Tennessee's Black Population: An Assessment," Journal of Business and Economic Perspectives.

Terry Tomazic, and H. Ronald Moser. (1994). "Patterns in Missouri's Black Population: An Assessment," Regional Business Review.


* H. Ronald Moser is a professor in the Labry School of Business Administration and Technology at Cumberland University in Lebanon, TN, and a retired MTSU professor (Management and Marketing).

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