Stockbridge among top 10 best U.S. cities for African Americans

A decade ago, Marre and Nickson Henry moved to Stockbridge from Pennsylvania with their one-year-old daughter for jobs and to be closer to family.

In that time, the family has grown by two more children - and so has the family’s affinity for Henry County’s largest city.

“It’s a family-friendly community,” said Marre Henry, who works as a physician assistant in DeKalb County. Her husband has an optometry practice in Henry. “I like that there’s a very low crime rate and it has a very good school system.

“A lot of people tend to move on the north side of Atlanta,” Henry added. “But Henry’s a best-kept secret and Stockbridge is the best-kept of the best-kept secret.”

Well, the secret’s out.

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The town of just over 27,000 was recently named among the 10 best cities in the nation for African Americans to live, according to Livability.com, a relocation site focused on how cities, especially small to mid­sized cities, become great places to live.

The list is made up of smaller towns, not the large urban centers historically thought to attract African-Americans, especially professionals. Tallahassee Florida, home to Florida A&M, topped the list. Cities were chosen based on livability indicators such cost of living, crime, health care availability and affordability, economic equality as well as parks, commute time and air quality.

Stockbridge, for instance, is about 30 minutes from Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest airport, and about the ame distance to downtown Atlanta, making it an enviable enclave.

Last year, the city council upped it amenities ante by approving a plan that calls for building a multi-million dollar amphitheater.

Livability also considered areas that had higher-than-average populations of African Americans and places where they are succeeding in terms of income, homeownership and academic achievement.

More than 57 percent of Stockbridge’s population is African American. Of all the cities on this list, Stockbridge has the lowest poverty rate among African Americans, as well as the lowest income disparity between blacks and whites. In fact, African Americans make an average of $7,000 more than their white neighbors, according to Livability. The survey noted that 56 percent of black residents in Stockbridge were homeowners and owned 13 percent of the businesses in the city.

“Our nation’s largest cities, as well as towns in the rural South have traditionally been the go-to centers of African-American life,” said Matt Carmichael, Livability editor and chief trend analyst. “But I think this list shows that, today, smaller and mid-size cities throughout the U.S. can be great places for African Americans.”

The small-town feel is what attracted attorney LaKeisha Gantt to Stockbridge 12 years ago. She has since married and is the mother of two little girls and a member of the city council. Her husband, Larry Wallace, works for Atlanta Public Schools.

“I love the diversity of Stockbridge,” Gantt said. “I love the atmosphere. It’s a great place for your kids. I’m a country girl from southern middle Georgia. You still get a small-town feeling and yet you’re in a suburban area not far from a big city.”

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