African immigration to the United States
1st row: Angélique Kidjo • Dikembe Mutombo
2nd row: Ahmed Zewail • Liya Kebede
3rd row: Charlize Theron • Ngugi wa Thiong'o
|African : 3,183,104 (Subsaharan African : 2,847,199 + North African: 335.895) (2010 U.S. Census) 1|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Washington, D.C., New York, Minneapolis, California, Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Houston|
|English (African English, American English), Arabic, Yoruba, Igbo, Lingala, French, Wolof, Swahili, Amharic, Somali, Tigrinya, Berber, Afrikaans, Hausa, Portuguese, Capeverdean Crioulos, Spanish, others|
|Christianity, Islam, Traditional, Other|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Africans: Sub-Saharan Africans, North Africans, Northeast Africans, White Africans of European ancestry
African immigration to the United States refers to immigrants to the United States who are or were nationals of Africa. The term African in the scope of this article refers to geographical or national origins rather than racial affiliation.
From the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 to 2007, an estimated total of 0.8 to 0.9 million Africans immigrated to the United States, accounting for roughly 3.3% of total immigration to the United States during this period.2
African immigrants in the United States come from almost all regions in Africa and do not constitute a homogeneous group. They include people from different national, linguistic, ethnic, racial, cultural and social backgrounds.3
As such, African immigrants are to be distinguished from African American people, the latter of whom are descendants of mostly West and Central Africans who were involuntarily brought to the United States by means of the historic Atlantic slave trade.
- 1 African presence in United States Immigration Legislation
- 2 20th Century migration patterns
- 3 Population
- 4 Factors contributing to migration
- 5 Demographics
- 6 Educational attainment
- 7 Health
- 8 Culture
- 9 Religion
- 10 Visibility
- 11 Cultural influence
- 12 Notable African immigrants
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 External links
In the 1870s the Naturalization Act was extended to allow "aliens, being free white persons and to aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent" to acquire citizenship. Hence immigration from Africa was theoretically permitted while non-white immigration from Asia was not.
Several laws enforcing national origins quotas on American immigration were enacted between 1921 and 1924 and were in effect until they were repealed in 1965. While these laws were aimed at restricting the immigration of Jews and Catholics from central and eastern Europe and immigration from Asia, they also impacted African immigrants. This legislation effectively excluded Africans from entering the country.
The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 restricted immigration from a given country to 3% of the number of people from that country living in the U.S. according to the census of 1910. The Immigration Act of 1924 (also known as the Johnson-Reed Act) reduced that to 2 %of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890. Under this system, the quota for immigrants from Africa (excluding Egypt) totaled 1,100. (This number was increased to 1,400 under the Immigration act of 1952 or the McCarran-Walter Act.) 4 This is in contrast to a country like Germany whose limit was 51,227.5
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (also known as the Hart-Cellar Act) repealed the national quotas and subsequently there was a substantial increase in the number of immigrants from "developing" countries, particularly in Africa and Asia. This act also provided a separate category for refugees. The Immigration Act of 1965 has also provided greater opportunity for family re-unification.
The influx of African immigrants began in latter part of the 20th century and is often referred to as the "fourth great migration." This trend began after decolonization, as many Africans came to the United States seeking an education, and has risen steadily over time. Originally, these immigrants came with the sole purpose of advancing themselves before returning to their respective countries. However, in recent years there has been an increase in the number of African immigrants interested in gaining permanent residence in the United States. This has led to a severe brain drain on the economies of African countries due to many highly skilled professionals leaving Africa to seek their economic fortunes in the United States and elsewhere.
|Ancestry||2000||2000 (% of US population)||2010||2010 (% of US population)|
|Nigerian||161,3236||negligible (no data)||264,5507||negligible (no data)|
|Egyptian||142,8326||negligible (no data)||197,0007||negligible (no data)|
|Cape Verdean||77,1036||negligible (no data)||95,0037||negligible (no data)|
|Ethiopian||68,0016||negligible (no data)||202,7157||negligible (no data)|
|Ghanaian||49,9446||negligible (no data)||91,3227||negligible (no data)|
|South African||44,9916||negligible (no data)||57,4917||negligible (no data)|
|Moroccan||37,4627||negligible (no data)||82,0737||negligible (no data)|
|Somali||36,3136||negligible (no data)||120,1027||negligible (no data)|
|Eritrean||18,9176||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Kenyan||17,3366||negligible (no data)||51,7497||negligible (no data)|
|Sudanese||14,4586||negligible (no data)||42,2497||negligible (no data)|
|Sierra Leonean||12,4106||negligible (no data)||16,9297||negligible (no data)|
|Algerian||8,7526||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Cameroonian||8,0996||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Senegalese||6,1246||negligible (no data)||11,3697||negligible (no data)|
|Congolese||More of 5,4886||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Tunisian||4,7356||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Ugandan||4,7076||negligible (no data)||12,549||negligible (no data)|
|Zimbabwean||4,5216||negligible (no data)||7,3237||negligible (no data)|
|Ivorian||3,1106||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Gambian||3,0356||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Guinea||3,0166||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Libyan||2,9796||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Tanzanian||2,9216||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Malian||1,7906||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Togolese||1,7166||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Angolan||1,6426||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Zambian||1,5006||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Rwandan||1,4806||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|TOTAL||940,000citation needed||0.2%citation needed||NA||NA|
One major factor that contributes to migration from Africa to the United States is inadequate planning of labor supply in certain African countries. This has led to an oversupply of specialized workers and a system that is incapable of supporting them.8citation needed Furthermore, education in African countries tends to be modeled after educational sysions and are not very accommodating of local realities. Subsequently, it has been relatively easy for African immigrants to leave and enter international labor markets. In addition, many Africans come to the United States for advanced training. However, this tends to lead a training that is too specialized to be adequately used in their respective home countries.9citation needed Furthermore, since promotions in Africa are often based on seniority, young professionals eager to jumpstart their careers feel forced to migrate.9citation needed
|Metropolitan Area||African Population||% of Total Metro Population|
|Washington, DC, MD-VA-WV||80,281||1.6|
|New York, NY||73, 851||0.8|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI||27,592||0.9|
|Greater Los Angeles Area||25,829||0.3|
It is estimated that the current population of African immigrants to the United States is about 881,300.10 Countries with the most immigrants to the U.S. are Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Somalia, and South Africa. Seventy five percent (75%) of the African immigrants to the USA come from 12 of the 55 countries, namely Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ethiopia, South Africa, Liberia, Somalia, Morocco, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone and Sudan, which is based on the 2000 census data.11
Additionally, according to the U.S. Census, 55% of immigrants from Africa are male, while 45% are female. Age groups with the largest cohort of African-born immigrants are 25-34, 35-44, and 45-54 with 24.5%, 27.9%, and 15.0% respectively.10
Africans typically congregate in urban areas, moving to suburban areas over time. They are also less likely to live in segregated areas.12 The goals of Africans vary tremendously. While some look to create new lives in the U.S., some plan on using the resources and skills gained to go back and help their countries of origin. Either way, African communities contribute millions to the economies of Africa through remittances.
Immigrants from Africa typically settle in heavily urban areas upon arrival into the U.S. Areas such as Washington, D.C., New York, Houston, Columbus, Ohio, Atlanta and Minneapolis have heavy concentrations of African immigrant populations. Often there are clusters of nationalities within these cities. The longer African immigrants live in the United States, the more likely they are to live in suburban areas.
African immigrants to the U.S. are among the most educated groups in the United States. Some 48.9 percent of all African immigrants hold a college diploma. This is more than double the rate of native-born white Americans, and nearly four times the rate of native-born African Americans.13 According to the 2000 Census, the rate of college diploma acquisition is highest among Egyptian Americans at 59.7 percent, followed closely by Nigerian Americans at 58.6 percent.1415
In 1997, 19.4 percent of all adult African immigrants in the United States held a graduate degree, compared to 8.1 percent of adult white Americans and 3.8 percent of adult black Americans in the United States, respectively.16 According to the 2000 Census, the percentage of Africans with a graduate degree is highest among Nigerian Americans at 28.3 percent, followed by Egyptian Americans at 23.8 percent.1415
Of the African-born population in the United States age 25 and older, 87.9% reported having a high school degree or higher,17 compared with 78.8% of Asian-born immigrants and 76.8% of European-born immigrants, respectively.18
Africans from Kenya (90.8 percent), Nigeria (89.1 percent), Ghana (85.9 percent), Botswana (84.7 percent), and Malawi (83 percent) were the most likely to report having a high school degree or higher. Those born in Cape Verde (44.8 percent) and Mauritania (60.8 percent) were the least likely to report having completed a high school education.19
American immigrants from predominantly black nations in Africa and South America are generally healthier than black immigrants from predominantly white nations in Europe. A study conducted by Jen’nan Ghazal Read, a sociology professor at the UC Irvine and Michael O. Emerson, a sociology professor at Rice University, closely studied the health of more than 2,900 black immigrants from top regions of emigration: the West Indies, Africa, South America and Europe. Blacks born in Africa and South America have been shown to be healthier than American born Blacks.2021
African immigrants tend to retain their culture once in the United States. Instead of abandoning their various traditions, they find ways to reproduce and reinvent themselves.23 Because of the extremely diverse nature of African ethnic groups, there is no single African immigrant identity. However, cultural bonds are cultivated through shared ethnic or national affiliations. Some organizations like the Ghanaian group Fantse-Kuo and the Sudanese Association organize by country, region, or ethnic group. Other not for profits like the Malawi Washington Association  organize by national identity, and are inclusive of all Malawians. Other groups present traditional culture from a pan-African perspective. Using traditional skills and knowledge, African-born entrepreneurs develop services for immigrants and the community at large. In the Washington area, events such as the annual Ethiopian soccer tournament, institutions such as the AME Church African Liberation Ministry, and "friends" and "sister cities" organizations bring together different communities. The extent to which African immigrants engage in these activities naturally varies according to the population.
The religious traditions of African immigrants tend to be pluralistic. In other words, they are seen not only as religious institutions, but in many cases also as civic centers. These organizations are also central to persevering ethnic identity among these communities.24citation needed In addition, African immigrant religious communities are also central networks and provide services such as counseling, shelter, employment, financial assistance, health services, real estate tips, etc.
African immigrants practice a diverse array of religions, including Christianity, Islam, and various traditional African religions. However, the largest African immigrant religious group in the United States is made up of Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians. This form of Christianity is a "primarily evangelical, born-again Pentecostal sect that emphasizes holiness, fervent prayer, charismatic revival, proximate salvation, speaking in tongues, baptism of the Holy Spirit, faith healing, visions, and divine revelations." 24
The most popular church denominations that Africans join include: Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, Seventh Day Adventist Church; Celestial Church of Christ, Cherubim and Seraphim, Christ Apostolic Church, the Church of Pentecost, Deeper Life Bible Church, Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries(MFM), the Presbyterian Church of Ghana,the Redeemed Christian Church of God and 24citation needed Christ Embassy.
Many African communities have created their own churches in the United States modeled on continental African churches. One example is the Bethel Church in Silver Spring, MD that has a Pan-African congregation. It also includes service in English and French. Many African churches are Pan African, but some consist only of nationals from the country of origin. This allows for worship in the languages of the congregation.
Ethiopians and Eritreans also have their own churches wherever there is a significant Ethiopian or Eritrean population. Their churches are mainly Ethiopian or Eritrean Orthodox and a few Catholic churches.
The Muslim tradition of African immigrants is made up of diverse groups. It includes Sufis and Mourides from Senegal, as well as mainstream orders and schools from Western, Eastern, Horn and Northern Africa.
Notable African academics in the U.S. include full tenured professors at the nation's top universities, including, at MIT, Elfatih A.B. Eltahir from Sudan; 25 at Caltech, 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Winner Ahmed Zewail from Egypt; at Yale, professor Lamin Sanneh 26 from Gambia; at Harvard, professors Jacob Olupona,27 from Nigeria, Emmanuel K. Akyeampong from Ghana,28 Biodun Jeyifo from Nigeria,28 and John Mugane from Kenya;28 and at Princeton, Adel Mahmoud 29 from Egypt, Wole Soboyejo 30 from Nigeria, Simon Gikandi 31 from Kenya, V. Kofi Agawu from Ghana,32 and Kwame Anthony Appiah from Ghana. In sports, Hakeem Olajuwon and Freddy Adu are prominent. In the arts, Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron and Grammy Award-winning musician Dave Matthews, both from South Africa, and two-time Academy Award-nominated actor Djimon Hounsou and Grammy-winning musician Angelique Kidjo, both from Benin, are most notable.
Many local cable channels are now purchasing programming channels operated by the various African communities. For example, Channel Africa is now available in some TV networks in the US.
The Africa Channel is a showcase for outstanding travel, lifestyle and cultural series, specials and documentaries. These programs feature all people of African descent and their incredible stories, their daily lives, their music and art, and their successes, celebrations and challenges.
The Network’s premiere on September 1, 2005, marked a milestone in U.S. television history. For the first time, American audiences were able to experience the successes, celebrations and challenges of people living throughout Africa and the Diaspora, all via a general entertainment network. The Network is broadcast in the United States through national distribution deals with the largest cable MSOs in the country, Comcast, Time Warner, and Cox, as well as other cable systems. The Africa Channel is also available in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia, Barbados, Bermuda, Grenada and other islands in the Caribbean. Partners include former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and his company, GoodWorks International; NBA stars Dikembe Mutombo and Theo Ratliff; Williams Group Holdings; and former U.S. Senator Donald Stewart.
News services such as the Nigerian Television Authority, South African Broadcasting Channel and Ethiopian Television Programming are also available in some areas.
Nigerian Nollywood films and Ghanaian films can now be rented or purchased from Nigerian and Ghanaian stores and like in Africa, are very popular among Africans in the United States from many different countries.
Immigrants from Africa have also opened up a number of restaurants in urban areas. The DC and NYC Metro areas host many eateries belonging to the Nigerian, Senegalese, Liberian, Ethiopian, Kenyan, South African and other communities.
The following is a list of notable African nationals who have immigrated to and now at least partially reside in the United States.
- Ahmed Zewail, Egyptian, Winner of 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Professor at California Institute of Technology
- Kitaw Ejigu, Ethiopia, former NASA chief engineer
- Kwabena Boahen, Ghanaian, Professor of Bioengineering, Stanford University 3334
- Ave Kludze Ghanaian, Senior NASA Spacecraft Systems Engineer
- Claude Ake, Nigerian, Professor at Yale University
- Jem Spectar, Cameroonian, President of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
- Kwame Anthony Appiah, British-born Ghanaian national, Half Ghanaian and Half British, world-renowned philosopher and writer, Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, 2012 National Humanities Medal winner 35
- Lamin Sanneh, Gambian, Professor at Yale University
- Simon Gikandi, Kenyan, Professor at Princeton University
- John Ogbu, Nigerian, Professor at University of California at Berkeley
- Fatima Jibrell, Somalia, environmentalist
- Sossina M. Haile, Ethiopia, fuel cell engineer
- Mohammed Adam El-Sheikh, Sudanese, executive director of the Fiqh Council of North America.36
- Said Sheikh Samatar, Somalia, historian
- Nawal M. Nour, Sudanese, obstetrician and gynecologist and 2003 Genius Award winner.37
- Augustin Banyaga, Rwanda, Professor at Pennsylvania State University
- Monica Breen, Ghana, American TV Producer and Screenwriter work includes Lost, Brothers & Sisters, Alias and Fringe
- Charlize Theron, South African, Academy Award-winning actress
- Djimon Hounsou, Beninese, Two-Time Academy Award-nominated actor
- Omar Sharif, Egyptian, Golden Globe-winning actor
- Akosua Busia, Ghanaian, Notable Performance as Nettie in Academy-Award-nominated film Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple
- Michael Blackson, Ghana, Actor/Comedian
- Peter Mensah, Ghana
- Edi Gathegi, Kenya
- Cliff Simon, South African
- Arnold Vosloo, South African
- Nana Gbewonyo, Ghana
- Lupita Nyong'o, Kenya
- Henry Rono, Kenya, professional runner
- Gale Agbossoumonde, Togo by way of Benin, soccer
- Joshua Clottey, Ghana, professional boxer
- Ebenezer Ekuban, Ghana, NFL football
- Nana Kuffour, Ghana, soccer
- Meb Keflezighi, Eritrea, runner
- Kofi Kingston, Ghana, professional wrestling
- Bernard Lagat, Kenya, runner
- Prince Nana, Ghana, wrestler
- Dikembe Mutombo, D.R. Congo, NBA basketball
- Luc Mbah a Moute, Cameroon, basketball
- Danny Mwanga, D.R. Congo, soccer
- Amobi Okoye, Nigeria, football
- Hakeem Olajuwon, Nigeria, NBA basketball
- Robbie Russell, Ghana, soccer
- Tony Tchani, Cameroon, soccer
- Hasheem Thabeet, Tanzania, NBA basketball
- Jean-Pierre Tokoto, Cameroon, soccer
- Masai Ujiri, Nigeria, NBA basketball (general manager)
- Madieu Williams, Sierra Leone, NFL Football
- Mathias Kiwanuka, Uganda, NFL Football
- Betty Okino, Uganda, Gymnastics
- Kase Lukman Lawal, Nigerian, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, CAMAC Holdings
- Roelof Botha, South African, former Chief Financial Officer of PayPal
- Elon Musk, South African, co-founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors and Chairman of SolarCity.
- Noah Samara, Ethiopia, CEO of Worldspace
- Kiara Kabukuru, Uganda, supermodel
- Iman, Somalia, Cosmetics and Fashion business CEO and former supermodel
- Liya Kebede, Ethiopia, supermodel
- Amsale Aberra, Ethiopia, fashion designer
- Nana Meriwether, South African-born,3839 Half South African and Half African American, Miss Maryland USA 2012, Miss USA 2012 First Runner-Up
- Chimamanda Adichie, Nigerian, world-renowned author; 2008 MacArthur Fellowship "Genius Grant" winner, 2007 Orange Prize winner and 2005 Commonwealth Writer's Prize award winner
- Micere Mugo, Kenyan, poet and writer
- Dinaw Mengestu, Ethiopia, author
- Selamawi Asgedom, Ethiopia and Eritrea, author
- Charles Mudede, Zimbabwean, Filmmaker and film critic
- Teju Cole, Nigerian-American, Novelist, writer, photographer and art historian
- Angelique Kidjo, Beninese, Grammy Award-winning musician
- Tunde Adebimpe, Nigerian, lead singer for band experimental rock band TV on the Radio
- Jean Grae, South Africa, hip-hop artist
- Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo, DR Congolese, guitarist for band Gym Class Heroes, grandnephew of Patrice Lumumba
- Kenna, Ethiopia, Alternative rock musician
- Dave Matthews, South African
- "Total ancestry categories tallied for people with one or more ancestry categories reported 2010 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
- Yoku Shaw-Taylor, Steven A. Tuch, The other African Americans: contemporary African and Caribbean immigrants in the United States, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7425-4088-0.
- David E. Kyoso, Immigrants in the United States, (Godfrey Mwakikagile: 2010), p.110.
- [Bashi, V. (2004, July 4). Globalizing Anti-Blackness: Transnationalzing Western Immigration law, policy and practice. Retrieved May 1, 2010, from Ethnic and Racial Studies: http://www.arts.yorku.ca/soci/goldring/4390/readings/pdf/bashi_globalized_anti-blackness.pdf
- George Mason University. (1998). Who was Shut Out?: Immigration Quotas, 1925-1927. Retrieved May 1, 2010, from History Matters: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5078/
- "Table 1. First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
- "Total ancestry categories tallied for people with one or more ancestry categories reported 2010 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
- Apraku, K. K. (1991). African Emigres in the United States: A Missing Link in Africa's Social and Economic Development. New York: Praeger.
- (Apraku, 1991)
- US Census Bureau - People Born in Africa
- Otiso, Kefa (06/11/2007). "African Immigrants a Successful Bunch, But Not Overall". MShale news. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
- Segregation Stats
- African Immigrants in the United States are the Nation's Most Highly Educated Group. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 26 (Winter, 1999-2000), pp. 60-61 doi:10.2307/2999156
- African Immigrants in the United States have the highest rate of education. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 26 (Winter, 1999-2000), pp. 60-61 doi:10.2307/2999156
- "Demographics and Statistics of Immigrants : Asian-Nation :: Asian American History, Demographics, & Issues". Asian-Nation. Retrieved 2010-11-08.
- Characteristics of the African Born in the United States. Migration Policy Institute. January, 2006
- Dixon, D. (2006). Characteristics of the African Born in the United States. Migration Policy Institute. January, 2006
- Black immigrants from Africa arrive healthier than those from Europe: From MedicineWorld.Org
- Today@UCI: Press Releases:
- Project MUSE
- Olupona, J. K., & Gemignani, R. (Eds.). (2007). African Immigrant Religion in America. New York: New York University Press.
- (Olupona & Gemignani, 2007)
- "Kwabena Boahen". Stanford.edu. Retrieved 2010-11-08.
- "Faculty - Department of Bioengineering - Stanford University School of Medicine and School of Engineering". Bioengineering.stanford.edu. 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2010-11-08.
- Sheridan, Mary Beth, "Leader Named at Mosque; Falls Church Site Selects Activist," Washington Post, June 11, 2005, accessed November 7, 2009
- "A CONVERSATION WITH/NAWAL NOUR; A Life Devoted to Stopping The Suffering of Mutilation", The New York Times, Claudia Dreifus, July 11, 2000
- New York Times: Tastes of Nigeria, Sounds of Sierra Leone
- New York Times: Bronx: Beyond the Yankees and the Zoo
- New York Times: Solace From a Multiethnic Tapestry
- Oakland Tribune: Black immigrants: The invisible model minority