STATES » Tennessee


As of 2023, Tennessee’s African American population is noteworthy, making it a state with a significant percentage of Black residents in the United States. The 2020 census data reveals that the Black population in Tennessee stands at 1,092,948, accounting for 16% of the state’s total population, including those who identify solely as Black. making it the 17th largest state Black population in the United States.

State DataBlack AloneTotal State
Total population (2020)1,092,9486,975,218
Median household income$42,413$59,695
Bachelor’s degree or higher22.2%30.5%
Family poverty rate18.1%9.7%
Percentage households Married-couple families24.6%47.1%
Homeowner rate44.1%67.5%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2021 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates


The Black population in Tennessee experienced considerable growth between 1990 and 2020, attributable to both natural increase and in-migration from other states. This growing African American population continues to shape Tennessee’s political, economic, and cultural landscape.


Tennessee’s African American population is predominantly concentrated in urban areas such as Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville. However, Black residents can also be found in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas across the state.


Tennessee has witnessed a reversal of the Great Migration trend, with numerous African Americans returning to the state from the North and West. This phenomenon, known as the “New Great Migration” or the “Reverse Great Migration,” has contributed to the revitalization of Black communities in the state, particularly in urban areas like Memphis and Nashville. Factors such as affordable housing, job opportunities, and cultural connections to the region have fueled this return migration.


Historically, African Americans in Tennessee have been employed in various industries and occupations. Post-Civil War, many Black residents worked as sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and laborers. In recent times, the African American community has pursued careers in diverse sectors, including education, healthcare, business, and entertainment.


Despite facing socioeconomic challenges such as discrimination, segregation, and limited access to quality education and housing, Tennessee’s Black population has made significant progress. Socioeconomic disparities in income, unemployment rates, and homeownership have been steadily decreasing. Moreover, African Americans in Tennessee have achieved notable success in local and state politics, entrepreneurship, entertainment, and the arts, enriching the state’s cultural landscape.


The African American presence in Tennessee dates back to the 18th century when enslaved Africans were brought to work on plantations. By the end of the 18th century, the Black population in Tennessee had grown significantly, comprising a considerable portion of the state’s total population.

Post-Civil War and the subsequent emancipation of enslaved people, Tennessee’s Black population continued to grow. Many African Americans stayed in the state, working as sharecroppers or tenant farmers. During the Great Migration in the early 20th century, a large number of Black residents left the South, including Tennessee, seeking better opportunities in the industrial North. Despite this exodus, Tennessee’s Black population continued to grow, contributing to the state’s rich history and cultural diversity.

In summary, the African American population in Tennessee boasts a rich history and continues to impact the state’s political, economic, and cultural sphere. The Black community in Tennessee has faced and continues to overcome various challenges, making significant contributions to the state’s diverse and vibrant identity.

Get the Complete Tennessee African American Population Report

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