Hit television shows about Black elite life like Our Kind of People, Harlem and The Real Housewives of Potomac have given us a once-a-week peek into the living rooms, backyards and playgrounds of the melanated, moneyed set. This spotlight on well-heeled Black professionals, business owners and their heirs has piqued interest in the lifestyles of the Black elite. Where do the wealthiest Black people find and invest in community? What are some of the most affluent Black enclaves in America, and what is it really like to live in them?
All-Black neighborhoods proliferated due to race-based restrictive housing laws, which forced Blacks who had the money to buy homes to cluster in distinct areas. Even the rich were redlined, resulting in elite Black communities that still thrive today. Los Angeles County has a few affluent neighborhoods, most notably Baldwin Hills, a Black celebrity haven dubbed “The Black Beverly Hills.” There’s also Prince George’s County, Maryland, and the influential Black suburb of Washington, D.C., that’s featured on The Real Housewives of Potomac, and we can’t forget the arts hamlet of Harlem, in New York City, glamorized on the hit Starz drama Run the World. Other bougie enclaves we’ll explore include Olympia Fields, Illinois. Some honorable mentions: Cedar Hills, Texas, and Wheatley Heights and Hillcrest, New York.
View Park–Windsor Hills, Los Angeles County, California
History: View Park–Windsor Hills is one of the richest Black communities in the U.S. and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is also producer-actor Issa Rae’s hometown and the inspiration for her HBO drama Insecure, about Black L.A. single life. On the show, Rae intentionally features the sexy and chic side of L.A.’s Black neighborhoods.
Neighborhood vibe: Besides the stunning downtown views, this tranquil and low-key hillside nabe also boasts “a cornucopia of architectural styles,” says longtime resident Steven Lott, an architect and managing principal at Raw International.
What locals love: Lott appreciates its association with the vibrant cultural arts of the adjacent Black village of Leimert Park, as well as its own rich heritage: It was the site of the Olympic Village during the 1932 Olympics.
Local hot spot: Simply Wholesome is a Black-owned casual health-food restaurant and market where you might just spot a celebrity. (simplywholesome.com)
Well-known residents, past and present: Doria Ragland, mother of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; Debbie Allen; Ray Charles; Ike Turner; Tina Turner; Nancy Wilson; Regina King; Issa Rae
All-Black neighborhoods proliferated due to race-based restrictive housing laws, which forced Blacks who had the money to buy homes to cluster in distinct areas. Even the rich were redlined, resulting in elite Black communities that still thrive today.
Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles County, California
History: Baldwin Hills is the largest middle- and upper-class Black community in Los Angeles. Dubbed “The Black Beverly Hills” because of the actors and musicians who have flocked to it, the community found itself in the spotlight with the BET docudrama Baldwin Hills in 2007.
Neighborhood vibe: It’s a friendly and quiet community “known for its spectacular views of the ocean, downtown and snow-capped mountains,” says Sheila Coates, a brand strategist and owner of BYOB (byobunlimited.com), who has owned her home for 27 years.
What locals love: The rich cultural mix of homeowners that include famous entertainers, politicians, executives and entrepreneurs. Also, the closeness to downtown, LAX, Beverly Hills and the beaches. “We are walking distance to Kenneth Hahn State Park’s hiking trails, bike-to-the-beach paths and stunning scenic overlooks,” says Coates.
Local hot spot: Black-owned Post & Beam features an upscale take on soul food. Diners may spot a celeb or CEO. (postandbeamla.com)
Well-known residents, past and present: Ice Cube, the King of Gospel James Cleveland, former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and musician Lenny Kravitz, who grew up here
Ladera Heights, Los Angeles County, California
History: Also with stunning views, it shares a border on the north with Baldwin Hills, on the east with View Park and on the south with Inglewood.
Neighborhood vibe: Doris Henderson, a retired teacher, and her husband, Franklin, an electrical engineer, originally chose this quiet, picturesque neighborhood 48 years ago.
What locals love: “Our neighbors care not only for their homes and their beautiful neighborhood, but deeply for each other,” says Doris Henderson. She adds that the couple can’t imagine how they would have made it through the COVID-19 lockdown without the help of their loving neighbors.
Local hot spot: Eat and dance at The New Townhouse, a Black-owned restaurant and nightclub. (thenewtownhousela.com)
Well-known residents, past and present: Vanessa Williams, WNBA’s Lisa Leslie, attorney Christopher Darden and rapper Tyler, the Creator
The residents are friendly and welcoming. They wave to passing cars, and the people in the passing cars wave back.
Mitchellville and Woodmore, Prince George’s County, Maryland
History: Mitchellville is named after the owners of the plantation that it was built on. Today, tobacco farms are replaced by a thriving Black residential community. Overlapping Woodmore is one of the premier gated communities in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Built around the Country Club at Woodmore, the community has upscale single-family homes within six themed villages.
Neighborhood vibe: The area is clean and quiet, with tree-lined streets, sprawling green spaces and a championship golf course. It is home to sports stars, CEOs and entrepreneurs. The drama-full ladies of The Real Housewives of Potomac have drawn attention to PG County, showing us that extra-large homes, luxury cars, and designer clothes and shoes are the norm for some here. “Living here definitely has prestige,” says George DuBose III, a Realtor and a 24-year resident.
What locals love: “We have large, stunning homes here along with a country club, a signature Arnold Palmer Golf Course, clay tennis courts, swimming pools, manicured and pristine lawns, and long driveways,” says DuBose. Attorney and community activist Marva Jo Campo points to “the sense of belonging, a pride in our culture, a self-awareness that my daughters have because of living here that can take them anywhere in the world.”
Local hot spot: Milk & Honey Express is a Black-owned brunch spot in nearby Glenarden. (milkandhoneyexpress.com)
Well-known residents, past and present: American ballet dancer, activist and actress Sydney Magruder Washington; Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Allen; D.C. United defender Chris Odoi-Atsem; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Chris Lykes; and entrepreneur and restaurant chain owner Lance London
Kettering, Prince Georges County, Maryland
History: An Upper Marlboro, mostly middle-class Black enclave, Kettering is a mix of modest-sized homes and townhomes.
Neighborhood vibe: It’s safe, quiet, family-friendly and affordable. ‘When I moved here the homes were affordable and still are, relative to the D.C. market,” says Van Glenn, a federal government human resources executive.
What locals love: “My neighbors are all friendly, and we know each other and look out for one another. It’s very convenient to everything in the area with easy access to the metro and the beltway [to get] into D.C. quickly,” says Glenn.
Local hot spot: The old BET soundstage has been transformed into Jasper’s Restaurant, a lively place for brunch in Largo, Maryland, one mile from Kettering. (jaspersrestaurants.com)
Well-known residents, past and present: Not many. The area is favored by low-key Washington, D.C., government employees.
Harlem, New York City
History: Harlem has been a creative mecca since the 1920s and ’30s Harlem Renaissance. Today Harlem is an art and fashion mecca. The fiercely fashionable Starz show Run the World is filmed on its streets, styled by icon Patricia Field (Sex and the City). And during New York Fashion Week last year, Harlem’s Fashion Row’s summit attracted fashion’s elite like Anna Wintour; designers Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger; and Harlem native, Bevelations author, and radio and television host Bevy Smith.
Neighborhood vibe: “The Black Harlem experience is my experience, even with gentrification,” says Smith. “Black art, culture, museums, fashion — it’s all here. Harlem is the cornerstone of Black America.” You'll find folks from all walks of life here. While buyers are snapping up row houses to renovate, most residents are renters, and there is a high density of public housing. These factors are reflected in high home prices for the urban oasis, though residents' average income is lower than the suburbs on this list.
What locals love: “The world was open to me growing up here,” says Smith. “It’s [part of] Manhattan. A few train stops away is Midtown: movies, restaurants … the world. I’ve worked in fashion, advertising, publishing, TV and radio. All of those industries are just two to three stops away.”
Local hot spot: Melba’s Harlem is Black-owned and a popular place for Sunday brunch with live music. (melbasrestaurant.com)
Well-known residents, past and present: singer Billie Holiday; writers Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin; musicians Lionel Hampton, Nina Simone and Tito Puente; actor and activist Harry Belafonte; comedian George Carlin; entertainers Sammy Davis Jr. and Doug E. Fresh; actors Ving Rhames, Angela Bassett and Neil Patrick Harris; poet Maya Angelou; and celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson
Olympia Fields, Illinois
History: The village sprang up around the prestigious Olympia Fields Country Club. The golf course has played host to two U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships. The town train station made the community attractive to young Black professional Chicagoans.
Neighborhood vibe: “Chicago is the type of town where people move on up, but not away. My parents moved on up to the affluent Black neighborhood of Olympia Fields, 15 minutes from our old home and in the same school district, as opposed to moving away from Black people,” says Koku Tona, a journalist and media correspondent for Blackfilm.com.
What locals love: “It’s clean and safe, and it’s the type of town where people regularly take leisurely walks,” says Tona. “The residents are friendly and welcoming. They wave to passing cars, and the people in the passing cars wave back.”
Local hot spot: Cozy up to the bar at Redwood Luxe Bar and Grill and listen to live music. (redwoodluxe.com)
Well-known residents, past and present: Former NBA player and current basketball analyst Kendall Gill; former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Jim Osborne; singer and producer Rudolph Isley, of the Isley Brothers; musician J. Ivy, of Kanye West fame; Alpha Kappa Alpha's 27th international president, Barbara McKinzie; and actresses Drew Sidora (The Game) and Dee Dee Davis (The Bernie Mac Show), both of whom attended high school in Olympia Fields.