Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Wyoming African American population has more than doubled during oil boom

The oil boom in Wyoming is changing the cultural landscape, with the African American population in some areas increasing by as much as 800 percent, Leigh Patterson reports for Inside Energy. The state's African American population has grown faster than in any other state, more than doubling from 4,389 in 2010 to 9,182 in 2013, while the African American population under 10 grew by 40 percent. African Americans are still a small percentage of the state's overall population of 584,153. (Patterson photo: Ivan Pettigrew, left, and his stepson Ray Stewart moved to Wyoming to find jobs in the oil industry)

African American Steve Marsh, who moved from Chicago to Gillette to work in the oil industry, told Patterson, "When I first got here, if every time you stepped into a restaurant, you feel five, six, seven, eight eyes on you and then you look back and they look away and then other people from the table are still looking. It's uncomfortable, to say the least."

Ivan Pettigrew, who moved from Atlanta to Wyoming, said most people have been friendly, Patterson writes. But the oil business has struggled recently, and jobs are not as easy to find. Pettigrew told Patterson, “In 2009 and 2010, you could basically lose your job one day and start working again the same day or the next day. Now it's not that easy."

Marsh said if jobs dry up he would like to return to the city, but Ray Stewart, Pettigrew's stepson and a native of Shreveport, La., said he has no plans to leave, Patterson writes. Stewart told Patterson, “I would definitely stay. I like the community. Within the five years I've been here I met my wife. I like it here." (Read more)

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