(Forsyth County, GA) Forsyth County is the fastest growing county in metropolitan Atlanta, and this growth has quickly brought a significant level of diversity to an area that has historically been quite the opposite.
Forsyth County has a long and murky racial history far beyond the scope of this article. According to the 1910 Census, Black people made up 9.2% of the County’s population. Native-born whites accounted for 90.6% of the population while the rest was attributed to native whites with foreign parentage and foreign-born whites. Other races were not accounted for in Forsyth County at that time.
After the Civil War, tensions rose between white and Black citizens boiling over into mobs, lynchings, and a group of men called the “Night Riders” who threatened Black residents to flee the county in 24 hours or be killed. Between 1910 and 1920 the number of Black and multiracial people in Forsyth County went from over 1000 to virtually none.
But while Forsyth’s racist history is far from forgotten, the County’s rapid development has opened the door to more diversity than what has been an overwhelming white majority for over a century. While it has shown growth, Forsyth County’s Black population is still fairly low compared to other nearby counties.
The U.S. Census Bureau shows Forsyth County’s Black population growing from 2.6% in 2010 to 4.16% in 2020. A much more significant jump, however, can be seen in the County’s South Asian population which has gone from 6.2% to nearly tripling Forsyth’s makeup at 17.95% in the same timeframe.
Forsyth County is now home to over 45,000 South Asians - largely made up of immigrants from India - giving its population the largest percentage of Asians of any county in Georgia. So what is it about the area that now makes it such an appealing place to live?
What’s the Appeal?
Richa Aggarwal, a longtime Forsyth County resident and administrator of the Indians in Cumming Facebook page, has watched the County change significantly in her 17 years living there. She cites low taxes and affordable homes as influences on her family’s decision to choose Forsyth County but says the area did not quite have the appeal then that it does now.
“The schools back then were not that great,” Aggarwal said. “Now, it’s the opposite. Forsyth County schools are ranked very highly [compared] to other counties at this point.”
As families move in from their home countries, Aggarwal says this improvement in education plays a major role in the decision making process.
But changes go far beyond the schools. South Asian culture and influence can be seen from work to play. The County is now filled with several Indian-owned businesses, grocery stores, and religious temples. Cumming also houses a 58 acre recreational facility used for cricket, a very popular sport in Southern Asia.
These changes are noticeable everywhere, even in Aggarwal’s neighborhood. “When we moved into my subdivision, we were like the third or fourth Indian family. But now, it seems like every other home has [one],” Aggarwal said.
The Next Generation
Aggarwal’s daughter, Saniya Bhardwaj, is a recent high school graduate who went to school in Forsyth County since kindergarten. Bhardwaj has seen firsthand how much the county has shifted over her lifetime.
“When I was in elementary school, I remember you could count the total number of Indians in my grade on one hand, and I would be the only Indian in my class,” Bhardwaj said. “Come high school, and the number grew increasingly year by year. I’ve noticed a greater population of Indians in my grade and especially the grades below mine.”
While she says some schools are more ahead of the curve than others, Bhardwaj credits diversity and inclusion in inspiring and allowing her to create her high school’s first Desi Heritage Club.
“I wanted to create a space where all members of all ethnicities, races, and backgrounds could come together to embrace their uniqueness and share their own stories,” Bhardwaj said.
That space for students is very much like Aggarwal’s Indians in Cumming Facebook page, which provides a place for local Indians to seek all sorts of support ranging from nanny jobs to general information and advice about the County itself.
“I started the page with the mindset for community people to connect and interact more than anything else,” Aggarwal said.
It is the culmination of these community spaces and all of the other cultural influences across the area that have attracted many Southeast Asians to Forsyth County and will assuredly attract many more in the future.