Doris J. Spencer decided to move to Calvert County because it seemed to have everything. Taxes were low, the countryside was beautiful and every spot on this tiny Southern Maryland peninsula was just minutes from the water.
But she quickly noticed something different from her old home in Alexandria: not many African Americans.
“I spent days traveling around the county when I didn’t see a single minority,” said Spencer, 65, an African American who moved to Calvert five years ago. “I was in total cultural shock.”
It wasn’t always like this. A century ago, Calvert was a majority-black outpost of freed slaves who farmed tobacco and harvested oysters. But over the past three decades, tens of thousands of whites have moved in, quadrupling Calvert’s population and making it the fastest-growing county in Maryland.
Today, blacks make up 12 percent of the population—down from 22 percent in 1980. The percentage of white residents has risen from 63 percent in 1970 to 77 percent in 1980, to almost 86 percent today.
The racial shift positions Calvert to rival Frederick County, which is almost 90 percent white, as one of the region’s most racially homogeneous jurisdictions.
The demographic shift is transforming the map of the Washington region into something like a misshapen pizza, with counties such as Calvert, Anne Arundel and St. Mary’s in Maryland and Fauquier and Culpeper in Virginia forming an increasingly white crust around the region’s multicolored inner counties. In each of those five majority-white outer counties, the proportion of white residents has increased at least slightly in recent years.
Although the overall number of blacks in the county has remained constant, they now make up a smaller percentage of Calvert’s population as a result of what some demographers have called “the new white flight,” an outward migration caused by the increasing urbanization of the inner counties and, for some, a desire to move away from minorities.
Just like the generation of white residents who left the District starting in the 1950s, many began to leave Prince George’s County in the 1970s for Calvert as their old neighborhoods became increasingly black. According to the Census, Prince George’s is the largest single source of recent migration to Calvert County.
“There is this kind of hopscotch effect where people keep moving out,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.