African Americans are among the largest ethnic groups in the state of Tennessee, making up 17% of the state"s population in 2010. African Americans arrived in the region prior to statehood. They lived both as slaves and as free citizens with restricted rights up to the Civil War. The state, and particularly the major cities of Memphis and Nashville have played important roles in African-American culture and the Civil Rights Movement.
In the 2010 Census, 1,057,315 Tennessee residents were identified as African-American ( of the total 6,346,105). In just 19 of the state"s 95 counties do African Americans make up more than 10% of the population: Shelby (52.1%), Haywood (50.4%), Hardeman (41.4%), Madison (36.3%), Lauderdale (34.9%), Fayette (28.1%), Davidson (27.7%), Lake (27.7%), Hamilton (20.2%), Gibson (18.8%), Tipton (18.7%), Dyer (14.3%), Crockett (12.6%), Rutherford (12.5%), Obion (10.6%), Giles (10.2%), and Carroll (10.1%). African Americans in the seven counties of Shelby (483,381), Davidson (173,730), Hamilton (67,900), Knox (38,045), Madison (35,636), Montgomery (32,982), and Rutherford (32,886) make up over 81% of the all African Americans in the state.
The majority-black city of Memphis is home to over four hundred thousand African Americans, making it one of the largest population centers. At least eight other municipalities have African American majorities: Bolivar, Brownsville, Gallaway, Gates, Henning, Mason, Stanton, Whiteville.
Davidson County, whose principal city is the state capital of Nashville, was home to the largest share of African Americans from 1800 to 1850. Since 1860, Memphis" Shelby County has had the largest population of African Americans.
Most of Tennessee"s African Americans lived in the condition of slavery from the colonial era until the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865. Although the state played a significant role in early U.S. abolitionism, the state government backed slavery in the 1834 constitution, required newly emancipated Blacks to leave the state,