The Great Reverse Migration
Black people are leaving large coastal cities for the South. We identify some of the best southern cities for Black entrepreneurs and why you should consider moving there.
Words by Wadzanai Mhute
Illustration by Justine Allenette Ross

Obum Ukabam and Faith Walker-Ukabam were ready to leave California for a place where they could pursue their passions and not live from paycheck to paycheck. The married couple researched metropolitan areas with growing entrepreneurial ecosystems, cheaper costs of living, and opportunities for a better work-life balance. All roads led to the South.

Inspired by the rich history of Black Wall Street and their own entrepreneurial dreams, the Ukabams set their sights on Tulsa, Oklahoma. For Obum, a school administrator with a love of Black history, it would be a chance to educate young people about the Black business heritage in the city. For Faith, a burgeoning small business owner, it would be an opportunity to play a part in rebuilding the entrepreneurial legacy of the city’s once-thriving Greenwood District.

“When my husband and I decided to move to Tulsa from California, it was because of the research and connection we felt to this city,” Faith says. “The history of Black entrepreneurs in Tulsa is very important to this country. I was inspired by those past and current entrepreneurs who were and are fearless about creating generational wealth for their families.”

Their big break came when they found out about Tulsa Remote, a program that offers professionals $10,000 to relocate to the city. The Ukabams were among the first applicants in 2019 and were pleasantly surprised when they were approved. They packed up their things and moved their family to Tulsa.

The Ukabam family didn’t waste time making an impact in the Black business community. Obum is helping keep the legacy of Black Wall Street alive through theater: he starred in Greenwood: An American Dream Destroyed, a play about the Tulsa Race Massacre produced by Theatre North, the oldest Black theater in the city. AndFaith made her business ownership dreams come true when she opened Curds and Whey Gourmet, a food business that specializes in charcuterie boards, small bites, dessert trays, and more.

“The community has been very receptive and supportive,” Faith says. The restaurant has been a big success so far, and people of all ages and races leave with a smile on their face. They feel the love I bring to my dishes.”

“The community that embraced me here in the Tulsa area has been largely Black women business owners, I set out to find a community for myself and I found...a circle of Black women looking out for me.”
Delia Gilis

The Ukabams are not the only people who were enticed by Tulsa. Delia Gillis, an entrepreneur and associate professor at University of Central Missouri, was also drawn to the promise of the Tulsa Remote program after reading about it while visiting Ghana for the Year of Return in 2019. As a historian of the Black American experience, the program primarily caught her attention as an academic because of the history of Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre. But shortly after moving to Tulsa in 2020 as part of the second class of Tulsa Remoters, Gillis was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and has since launched 2 travel businesses: a cultural group that hosts tourists in Ghana and a boutique that sells wares from rural African artisans.  

She credits the community of Black women entrepreneurs in Tulsa for inspiring her small business journey. “The community that embraced me here in the Tulsa area has been largely Black women business owners,” Gillis says. “I set out to find a community for myself and I found...a circle of Black women looking out for me.”

Like many Black people over the last decade, Gillis and the Ukabams are part of a reverse Great Migration, which has resulted in thousands of African Americans leaving large coastal metropolises and midwestern municipalities for the promise of greater opportunities in southern cities like Atlanta, Houston, and Durham. High-profile instances of police brutality have put a spotlight on the racism and inequality that exist in the Midwest and Northeast. And while gentrification has made cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago untenable for many Black residents, southern cities are offering promises of prosperity. 

“Back in the day there was a Gold Rush, where everybody moved out West,” Obum  says. “I think now there is a quality-of-life rush. You don’t need to live in some major city if you are looking for that quality of life.”

Making the choice to move to a new city is a major decision, and especially when you’re a Black entrepreneur or professional. So we have done the research for you and identified the best southern cities for Black entrepreneurs and why you should consider moving there.

Atlanta, Georgia
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TX
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Atlanta is known as the Black Mecca of the United States, and for good reason. With its thriving tech scene, growing investment ecosystem, booming culture and entertainment industry, and relatively affordable housing, Atlanta has become a primary destination for Black reverse migrants. Just be prepared for lots of traffic.
Atlanta by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 51%

    Median household income: $59,948

    Median home value: $290,400

    Median gross rent: $1,153

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

    Internet of Things (IoT)

    Bioscience

    Technology

    Supply Chain & Manufacturing

(Source: Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce)

Start here

Texas has quickly become one of the best states for Black entrepreneurs, and Dallas plays a big role in that ranking. The city boasts a blossoming Black startup scene and entrepreneurship ecosystem, and the wide-open spaces of the DFW metroplex area make for less congestion and lower housing costs. Dallas is home to a growing number of Black-owned startups like Kanarys, ShearShare, and Gig Wage, and small businesses like Kookie Haven (check out our Bloom Season feature), and venture capital firms like Impact Ventures.

Dallas by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 24%

    Median household income: $52,580

    Median home value: $188,100

    Median gross rent: $1,052

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

Start here
The home of the original Black Wall Street is having a resurgence. 100 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre, the second largest city in Oklahoma has benefited from renewed interest by Black entrepreneurs looking to rebuild the historic Greenwood District. With a low cost of living and high opportunity, Tulsa is rising again.
Tulsa by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 15%

    Median household income: $47,650

    Median home value: $118,700

    Median gross rent: $829

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

    Advanced Manufacturing

    Aerospace & Defense

    Energy

    Transportation & Logistics

(Source: Tulsa Regional Chamber)

Start here

Durham, the 15th largest city in the nation, once had its own Black Wall Street. Today, it is returning to its prominence as a Black wealth capital, with some hailing it as the next Atlanta.

Durham by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 38%

    Median household income: $58,905

    Median home value: $224,100

    Median gross rent: $1,058

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

Start here
What Memphis lacks in wealth, it makes up for in opportunity. As a majority Black city and the birthplace of both the Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll, Memphis is a great place for founders who are building businesses that cater specifically to Black people.
Memphis by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 64%

    Median household income: $41,228

    Median home value: $101,800

    Median gross rent: $901

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

Start here
A blue oasis in a deep red state, Birmingham—led by its young, Black, two-term mayor Randall Woodfin—is returning to its Civil Rights Movement roots as a progressive North Star for both the South and the nation.
Birmingham by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 70%

    Median household income: $37,375

    Median home value: $91,100

    Median gross rent: $837

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

Start here
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is known as the Black Mecca of the United States, and for good reason. With its thriving tech scene, growing investment ecosystem, booming culture and entertainment industry, and relatively affordable housing, Atlanta has become a primary destination for Black reverse migrants. Just be prepared for lots of traffic.
Atlanta by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 51%

    Median household income: $59,948

    Median home value: $290,400

    Median gross rent: $1,153

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

    Internet of Things (IoT)

    Bioscience

    Technology

    Supply Chain & Manufacturing

(Source: Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce)

Start here

Texas has quickly become one of the best states for Black entrepreneurs, and Dallas plays a big role in that ranking. The city boasts a blossoming Black startup scene and entrepreneurship ecosystem, and the wide-open spaces of the DFW metroplex area make for less congestion and lower housing costs. Dallas is home to a growing number of Black-owned startups like Kanarys, ShearShare, and Gig Wage, and small businesses like Kookie Haven (check out our Bloom Season feature), and venture capital firms like Impact Ventures.

Dallas by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 24%

    Median household income: $52,580

    Median home value: $188,100

    Median gross rent: $1,052

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

Start here
The home of the original Black Wall Street is having a resurgence. 100 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre, the second largest city in Oklahoma has benefited from renewed interest by Black entrepreneurs looking to rebuild the historic Greenwood District. With a low cost of living and high opportunity, Tulsa is rising again.
Tulsa by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 15%

    Median household income: $47,650

    Median home value: $118,700

    Median gross rent: $829

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

    Advanced Manufacturing

    Aerospace & Defense

    Energy

    Transportation & Logistics

(Source: Tulsa Regional Chamber)

Start here

Durham, the 15th largest city in the nation, once had its own Black Wall Street. Today, it is returning to its prominence as a Black wealth capital, with some hailing it as the next Atlanta.

Durham by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 38%

    Median household income: $58,905

    Median home value: $224,100

    Median gross rent: $1,058

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

Start here
What Memphis lacks in wealth, it makes up for in opportunity. As a majority Black city and the birthplace of both the Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll, Memphis is a great place for founders who are building businesses that cater specifically to Black people.
Memphis by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 64%

    Median household income: $41,228

    Median home value: $101,800

    Median gross rent: $901

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

Start here
A blue oasis in a deep red state, Birmingham—led by its young, Black, two-term mayor Randall Woodfin—is returning to its Civil Rights Movement roots as a progressive North Star for both the South and the nation.
Birmingham by the numbers

    Black population percentage: 70%

    Median household income: $37,375

    Median home value: $91,100

    Median gross rent: $837

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

Key industries

Start here