AUSTIN (KXAN)— Even though Austin’s population continues to grow, people in the city’s Black population is shrinking, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Less than 10% of Austin’s population is Black, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Measure, an Austin-based nonprofit that does research on racial disparities, conducted a survey in May 2022. It found 80% of Black people who leave Austin said they felt a lack of belonging.

Fifteen years ago, the City of Austin implemented dozens of initiatives to improve quality of life for black people in Austin. But what’s really happened with those efforts?

Black churches, like St. James Missionary Baptist in east Austin, are where a lot of Black people go
to feel a sense of community. It’s been this way for generations.

Some might argue it is one of few places that offers a Black cultural experience in the city.

Dr. Billie McClendon, senior pastor for 30 years at St. James, has seen the city change—or really, seemingly he said—stay the same.

“Being a Black man in America, I’m not under any illusions,” McClendon said. Austin, because of its lack of Black people…it’s been a challenge.”

He preaches to his community about creating their own.


“All I want is an opportunity,” McClendon said.

Those opportunities, The City of Austin began crafting more than 15 years ago when they implemented 56 initiatives to improve quality of life for black people.

But in what was once considered a historic east Austin Neighborhood, it’s nothing like it used to be according President of the Austin Chapter of the NAACP, Nelson Linder said. Linder has lived in Austin since the 80s.

“This is all this is basically all white right now…I’m the only black person in the building [where I work],” Linder said walking through the neighborhood with Reporter Jala Washington.

Linder said he’s one of the few black businesses and neighbors left.

“Black neighborhoods now have been deserted for the most part because of gentrification,” he said.

A 2008 City of Austin African American Quality of Life study looked at:

  • Arts and culture
  • Business and economic development
  • Employment and education
  • Health
  • Neighborhood sustainability
  • Police and safety

Linder serves on that Commission.

“They haven’t invested money required to create equity,” Linder said.

In the meantime, Pastor McClendon keeps his faith, and pushes for people to get more involved to create their own change.

“The only way it’s going to change is, we’re going to have to participate,” McClendon said.

The city just recently did a survey looking into another community. A 2021 survey by Austin’s LGBTQ+ commission found respondents want the city to create more LGBTQ+ community spaces.

The report said many people surveyed felt accepted and safe with chosen family and friends at work but not in public places like restaurants.

Queer people of color, youth and transgender/gender-expansive individuals had a greater percentage of negative interaction with law enforcement.

The study also found 17 percent of respondents spent half their monthly income on housing. Instances of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people seeking housing were reported during the interviews.

For a full list of studies the city has done on minority communities in Austin, click here.