THE STATE

S.C. CONTINUES TO LOSE YOUNG BLACK ADULTS

Published on: 07/25/2001
Section: FRONT
Edition: FINAL
Page: A1
By CHRIS ROBERTS, Staff writer
Memo: Info box "Long term trend" follows text.

Illustration: PHOTO: COLOR

Caption: Jacinta Richardson Bazemore, a 1987 graduate of Keenan High School in Columbia, is a financial analyst for IBM at North Carolina's Research Triangle Park. JON GARDINER/SPECIAL TO THE STATE


Thousands of young blacks left South Carolina during the 1990s, continuing the century-old exodus of African-Americans in their 20s and early 30s.

While the state's black population rose 14 percent in the 1990s, the number of young blacks entering the work force fell more than 10 percent, according to Census Bureau data released last week.

"Many of our young professionals and our potential young professionals are leaving," said Cleveland Sellers, head of the African-American Studies program at USC. "We're continuing to lose brain power and potential, and it's sad."

South Carolina had 255,000 black residents age 20 to 34 last year. In 1990, when those people were a decade younger, they numbered 286,000.

That's a loss of 11 percent of Generation X blacks during the 1990s, a decade in which the state's total number of Generation X residents in South Carolina rose 3 percent.

It's a tradition unchanged since the end of the Civil War. Census figures show hundreds of thousands of blacks, who lived in South Carolina as teen-agers, left the state before they turned 34.

And it's a trend throughout the South, said Will Scott, a Mount Pleasant native and expert in the "Great Migration" of blacks during the 20th century.

"Many of these young people are still running into barriers," said Scott, a history professor at Kenyon College of Ohio. "They can get minimum wage jobs. But if they're ambitious, they're leaving."

Sellers said young blacks are leaving the state today to seek education and opportunity - the same reasons they left during the post-Civil War, the Great Depression and Jim Crow eras.

"I remember growing up here, when the ideal was to graduate from high school and then to leave," he said. "That's what people encouraged young African-Americans to do, and that was what you had to do.

"It's a critical issue for the state. We have to change the perception of discrimination, as well as the reality of discrimination where it exists."

Jacinta Richardson Bazemore, a 1987 graduate of Keenan High in Columbia, left South Carolina for education and stayed for employment. After earning an accounting degree at Hampton University in Virginia, she worked for a year in Connecticut before settling in with IBM at North Carolina's Research Triangle, between Raleigh and Durham.

"Most of the companies that came to college to recruit were from the North," she said. "I wanted something in the financial arena, and after looking in Columbia, I didn't see much that would work for me."

Ruth McCants, a 30-year-old Sumter native, left for an education in Ohio. After receiving degrees at South Carolina State, she did post-doctoral work at Ohio State and now attends a seminary. She is starting her sixth year living in Columbus, a few blocks away from a fellow South Carolina State alum from Orangeburg.

"I think there is still discrimination in the South, but my reason is purely an opportunity for education," she said. "I'm hoping I'll move back some day."

If McCants returns home, she'll join the growing number of black S.C. natives who eventually return home.

Census data show slight increases in middle-age black population groups. Black population rose 3 percent when comparing people age 40 to 59 in 2000 against people age 30 to 49 a decade earlier.

"A lot of people seem to be coming back as retirees," Scott said. "They work up North, get good pensions and go home where the pensions go further. They find that South Carolina has changed and become more hospitable."

South Carolina's 3 percent increase in Generation X residents can be attributed to its increase in Hispanics.

Of the 95,000 Hispanics counted in South Carolina in 2000, 44 percent were born between 1966 and 1980. The white, non-Hispanic population of Gen X residents was unchanged.

LONG-TERM TREND

Large numbers of S.C. blacks have left the state when they reached their 20s, and the trend, which began after the Civil War, continued in the 1990s. These numbers show the population decline of S.C. blacks, ages 20 to 34, in one census compared with the 10-to-24 population of the previous census.

1880 to 1890 -26 percent

1890 to 1900 -29 percent

1900 to 1910 -31 percent

1910 to 1920 -35 percent

1920 to 1930 -46 percent

1930 to 1940 -33 percent

1940 to 1950 -30 percent

1950 to 1960 -52 percent

1960 to 1970 -45 percent

1970 to 1980 -9 percent

1980 to 1990 -16 percent

1990 to 2000 -11 percent

Contact Chris Roberts at (803) 771-8595 or mcroberts@thestate.com



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