In recognition of Black History Month, the U.S. Census has released up-to-date statistics that reveal population, the number of black-owned businesses and even how many African-American military members are serving the country.
For instance, roughly 50 percent of District residents are black, according to the new figures. While the rate allows the nation’s capital to boast of having the largest percentage of African-Americans, the black population in New York — at 3.8 million — is the largest of any state or equivalent.
Currently, the population — which references to individuals who identify as black even if they’re combined with other races — stands at 46.3 million, up about 1.3 percent from the previous year.
Census officials project the black population will increase to 74.5 million by July 1, 2060, and on that date, African-Americans would constitute 17.9 percent of the nation’s total population.
The estimated number of black-owned employer firms was 108,473 in 2014, the latest available, Census officials said.
Additionally, there’s an estimated 31,216 black-owned health care and social assistance firms, the largest sector of black-owned businesses.
The health care and social assistance sector is followed by professional, scientific and technical support (15,078) and administrative, support, waste management and remediation services (9,644).
One of the most famous black-owned businesses in the past half-century has been Johnson Publishing Company, which resided in a building in Chicago on South Michigan Avenue.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the building is now being considered for landmark status.
“As we celebrate Black History Month, it is the perfect time to honor this building that stands tall as a decades-long epicenter of black history and culture,” Emanuel said. “This designation will cement this building’s status as a landmark that is not just part of the legacy of the city of Chicago, but the history of our nation.”
Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing Company and daughter of company founder John H. Johnson, said she’s “thrilled” the building is being considered for landmark status.
“My father started Johnson Publishing Company to inform, empower and uplift the African-American community,” Rice said in a statement released by the city of Chicago. “With my mother, Eunice by his side, they built an iconic brand. … It is a true testament to the hard work of my parents and all the people who called Johnson Publishing Company home for decades.”
Census officials also noted the contributions of African-Americans in the military. The latest figures show that 2.2 million black military veterans reside in the United States.
Education has also improved among African-Americans with the Census reporting that 87 percent of the black population 25 and over has at least a high school diploma, more than 20 percent hold a bachelor’s degree and 1.9 million have attained an advanced degree.
Currently, nearly 3 million African-Americans are enrolled in an undergraduate college.
Educators said the results are encouraging and the change that’s making a difference is at the middle and high school levels.
“Gone are the days when we take a 9th-grade class and plug them all into those beginning courses,” Sue Chittim, principal of Annapolis High School in Maryland, told the Capital Gazette. “We take our time to make sure there’s a readiness level and they’re taking classes of interest.”
Civil rights activist Carl Snowden said the graduation numbers for African-Americans are encouraging, but he is concerned about other indicators of success, such as test scores.
“I would be thrilled if the achievement gap was closing at the same rate, which it’s not,” he said.
Census statistics indicate that the annual median household income for African-Americans is $36,544, compared to the $55,775 of the rest of the country.
Also, 25.4 percent of the black population is below the poverty level, while the national average sat at 14.7 percent.
The percentage of the civilian employed black population age 16 and older who worked in management, business, science and arts occupations stood at 28.7 percent while the total civilian employed population who worked in these occupations is 37.1 percent.
Closing these gaps would be a tremendous challenge even in a reasonable political environment, Rep. Cedric Richmond, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, wrote in an editorial.
The current political climate is anything but reasonable, Richmond said.
“The battles fought and won by Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells and Martin Luther King Jr. are being waged again today,” he said. “An unjust criminal justice system continues to decimate African-American families and communities.
“Schools in many parts of the country look as though Brown v. Board of Education never happened,” Richmond said. “The right to vote is in greater peril than it has been in over 50 years. Needless to say, the work ahead of us is as important as it has been at any point in our history.”
For more than 45 years, the CBC, known as the “conscience of the Congress,” has worked to improve conditions for African-Americans across the country, Richmond said, promising the work will continue.
He said the CBC would continue to push for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act and work to end discriminatory voting practices.
“We will continue to lead efforts to reform our nation’s broken criminal justice system and promote community-centered policing,” Richmond said. “We will work to create educational opportunities and equity, ensure programs are in place for job and career training, and strengthen historically black colleges and universities.
“While we will continue to champion efforts to promote economic growth and create pathways out of poverty, we will also safeguard social safety net programs for those in need of a helping hand,” he said. “But we cannot do this on our own. Every successful movement has been sparked by the efforts of courageous activists, fearless leaders, and tireless freedom fighters. This moment, like many others before it, will require us all to remain active and engaged if we hope to reach new heights in this struggle.”