Columbus’ Eastern Suburbs See Black Population Increase by More Than 40 Percent

Good schools, safe atmospheres and tight-knit communities bring more Black residents to Reynoldsburg, Canal Winchester, New Albany and Pickerington.

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
Zoe Whitlock and Mackenzie James-Lee, facing, celebrate after the Reynoldsburg Encore Academy commencement ceremony June 3 at the high school football stadium.

When Reynoldsburg’s beloved Tomato Festival made its return in August after a 2020 pandemic hiatus, the musical lineup was a little different from the past. Alongside the traditional rock and country acts, organizers also booked Arrested Development, the 1990s hip-hop pioneers.

You can trace that musical shift to the changing demographics of Reynoldsburg. Since 2010, the suburb’s Black population has increased by more than 40 percent, a change that upended local politics in the city. Today, four Black people sit on the ward-based Reynoldsburg City Council—and those new representatives pushed to make sure that the city’s signature cultural event included a more diverse musical lineup. “Our city council is bringing about different ideas to our events that we have throughout the city,” says Council President Angie Jenkins, who was first elected in 2019 alongside two other Black women, as well as the city’s—and possibly the country’s—first Bhutanese-Nepali elected official. (Reynoldsburg also has a robust and growing Asian community.)

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Reynoldsburg’s story is mirrored in other eastern Franklin County suburbs, including Canal Winchester, Gahanna, New Albany and Pickerington, all of which saw dramatic growth in their Black populations over the past decade. Black folks—both city of Columbus transplants and new arrivals to Central Ohio—are drawn to this area (located near the traditional Black enclave on the East Side of Columbus) for many of the same reasons as white folks: good schools, safe atmospheres, tight-knit communities. Jenkins moved to Reynoldsburg from Cincinnati in 2000 and raised her now-adult children there. “Even when I lived in Cincinnati, I lived in a smaller neighborhood,” says Jenkins, who grew up in the North Avondale neighborhood on the northeast side of Cincinnati. “That’s what I’m used to.”

More:Six Charts That Show How Columbus and Central Ohio Are Changing