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In a glass skyscraper on Park Avenue in New York, executives offered Onay Payne her dream job. A quiet pause followed, then a string of hesitant utterances. “I suppose if it’s a great professional move—but socially, I wouldn’t recommend it.” At a time of striking growth among the black population in the Dallas area, the city still suffers from an image problem among black professionals who perceive other cities—Atlanta; Chicago; or Washington, D. “Dallas is a tough sell,” says April Allen, the friend Payne called, and executive director of KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth, a nonprofit charter school organization that has had trouble recruiting education reformers to the area.The bosses at her real estate private equity firm wanted Payne to oversee a new $650 million fund, a significant promotion. What would it be like, Payne wondered, to live in Dallas as a thirtysomething black woman? “There is definitely the perception that Dallas isn’t as progressive as other cities for African-Americans.” Michael Boone, founding partner of the Dallas law firm Haynes and Boone, says his firm still struggles to recruit African-American attorneys to Dallas and has resorted to sending out letters to the top 100 black student law groups in the country, encouraging members to apply.

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She bought a one-way ticket, stopped at a BMW dealership to pick up a car, and drove to her newly purchased condominium in Uptown.But when she got a call from the relocation real estate agent, the woman tried to dissuade her.“You really don’t want to live in North Oak Cliff,” the woman told Allen.He notes Dallas ranked second nationally for overall black population gain between 20, which included migration and local births.During that period, the area’s black population increased by 33 percent, or 233,890 people. During the same period, the black population dropped in the metropolitan areas of New York and Chicago for the first time.To find friends, she leaned on her alumni networks, eventually assembling a group of five close black female friends.

Over dinners, they talked about living in Dallas and how it fell short in some ways compared to other cities, particularly Atlanta.

As the days passed, Payne was pleased with some of the perks of her new life: an easy commute to her office in Uptown and a much lower cost of living, which allowed her to upgrade to a 1,750-square-foot condominium, more than double the space she had in Brooklyn. In New York, she never had a problem finding a crowd of black professionals, in restaurants, at the gym.

Here, when she went out after work, she often was the only black person in sight.

“I thought, ‘Okay, welcome to Texas,’ ” Allen says.

She parted ways with that agent and hired one who lived in North Oak Cliff.

Frey, a demographer for the Brookings Institution in Washington, D. Coming in first was the Atlanta area, with an average of 23,750 new black residents a year; then Houston, with 11,008; followed by Charlotte, with 10,137.