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African Americans
African Americans by state.svg
Proportion of African Americans in each U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico as of the 2020 United States Census
Total population
46,936,733 (2020)[1]
14.2% of the total U.S. population (2020)[1]
41,104,200 (2020) (one race)[1]
12.4% of the total U.S. population (2020)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Across the United States, especially in the South and urban areas
English (American English dialects, African-American English)
Louisiana Creole French
Gullah Creole English
African languages
Predominantly Protestant (71 %) including Historically Black Protestant (53%), Evangelical Protestant (14%), and Mainline Protestant (4%);
significant[nb 1] others include Catholic (5%), Jehovah's Witnesses (2%), Muslim (2%), and unaffiliated (18%)[2]
Famous African Americans: Above: W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama. Below: Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Sojourner Truth.

An African American is a person who lives in the United States and speaks English, but whose ancestors were from Africa. It could also mean a first generation African immigrant who has citizenship in the United States.

The term is usually associated with black people. This is because of many African Americans' dark skin due to having Sub-Saharan African ancestors. Many Africans were brought to the United States in the slave trade. Many of the U.S. population (especially in many urban or city areas) are African American. Many others live in rural areas in the Southern United States. Detroit has the highest percent of blacks in the nation, and many live in other big cities. Cities with the highest percent of African Americans are Jackson, Mississippi; New Orleans; Memphis; Miami Gardens; and Savannah, Georgia.[3] New York City and Chicago have the largest population of African Americans. Other cities with a high African American population are Baltimore, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Baton Rouge, Washington, D.C. and Dallas. States with the highest percentage of African Americans are Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, Alabama, Delaware, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. African Americans are third largest ethnic group in the United States after White Americans and Hispanic and Latino Americans.


African-American refers to a specific range of diverse cultures with a common thread of ethnic connection to Africa. This term was created to describe an ethnic/cultural link to Africa for people who are American, much as in the case of Italian Americans, Irish Americans, or Polish Americans. The difference is that Italian Americans and Polish Americans know they are Americans of Italian or Polish (not general European) descent.

The 'African' in African-American acknowledges the connection to a number of African cultures, not one in particular. The 'American' shows the nationality and culture of the United States. A person born in Nigeria is still Nigerian even if he or she comes to the United States and lives here for the rest of their life. If that person wants to say that they are an American citizen, they would simply say "I am an American citizen". His American-born children could correctly call themselves Nigerian-American OR African-American.

Some Caribbeans such as Jamaicans do not identify as African American, even if they have African ancestry.[4]


Malcolm X
In America, and from an American point of view, the term 'Black' is often applied to other ethnic groups throughout the world who do not necessarily see themselves as Black, such as Australian Aborigines, for example. African American culture was born in the United States and is distinct from any single African culture.

African-American is a term that many Black people chose to call themselves because they found the term "Negro" offensive.

In America there are many immigrants of mixed race that includes African descent, like Cape Verdeans, Dominicans, Cubans, Brazilians and Puerto Ricans. These groups, by and large, do not think of themselves as Black or African American and object to these labels.

Many mixed race Americans also resist pressure to identify themselves as Black or White. Blasians and Afro-Hispanics also resist pressure.

Population statistics

Alabama has a large population of African Americans. African Americans were enslaved in the state.[5]

African Americans constitute 15.4 percent of Arkansas’s population, according to the 2010 census, and they have been present in Arkansas since the earliest days of European settlement. Originally brought to Arkansas in large numbers as slaves, people of African ancestry drove the state’s plantation economy until long after the Civil War. African Americans have exerted a profound influence upon all aspects of the state’s history and culture.

Atlanta was the home of Martin Luther King Jr. and an important place in the Civil Rights Movement.[6] It has been referred to as a "black mecca".

  • "A CHAMPION FOR ATLANTA: Maynard Jackson: 'Black mecca' burgeoned under leader"[7]
  • "The city that calls itself America's ' Black Mecca'"[8]
  • "The Black Mecca leads the nation in numbers of African American millionaires; at the same time, it leads the nation in the percentage of its children in poverty"[9]
  • "the city that earned a national reputation as America's 'black mecca'"[10]
  • "the cornerstone upon which today's 'Black Mecca' was built"[11]
  • "And, they said, don't forget Atlanta's reputation as a black mecca"[12][13]
  • "Atlanta's allure as the black mecca"[14]
  • “Atlanta is a city that is known as the black mecca"[20] "Upcoming city elections will show how Atlanta is undergoing profound changes", '"Saporta Report, October 2009]
  • "Some people call Atlanta the Black Mecca"[21]
  • "That stockpile of black brain power has made Atlanta the nation's mecca for blacks, especially buppies looking for Afro-American affluence and political clout." in "Bond vs. Lewis - it's Atlanta's loss that only one of the two can win ", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 16, 1986
  • "Is it this that has made Atlanta the mecca of the black middle class?"[22]
  • "Atlanta emerges as a center of black entertainment"[23]

Delaware has a significant African American population. African Americans were enslaved in the state. In 1721, an estimated 2,000-5,000 black slaves lived in Pennsylvania and the three lower counties on the Delaware.[24]

As of the 2010 U.S. Census, African Americans were 31.2% of Georgia's population.[25]

The first black people to live in Texas were Afro-Mexicans when Texas was a Spanish colony.[26] Texas has one of the largest African-American populations in the country.[27] African Americans are concentrated in northern, eastern and east-central Texas as well as the Dallas, Houston and San Antonio metropolitan areas.[28] African Americans form 24 percent of both the cities of Dallas and Houston, 19% of Fort Worth, 8.1 percent of Austin, and 7.5 percent of San Antonio.[29]

Virginia is home to the longest continuous experience of African American life and culture in the United States spanning more than four centuries – beginning before the first English settlement at Jamestown and through the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Emancipation and the Civil Rights eras.

Outside of the United States, the history of African Americans in Ghana goes back to people such as American civil rights activist and writer W. E. B. Du Bois, who settled in Ghana in the last years of his life and is buried in the capital Accra. Since then, other African Americans who are descended from slaves imported from areas within the present-day jurisdiction of Ghana and neighboring states have applied for permanent resident status in Ghana. As of 2015, the number of African American residents has been estimated at around 3,000 people, a large portion of whom live in Accra.

Genetic studies

Many African Americans have European ancestry and Native American along with African ancestry.

Recent surveys of African Americans using a genetic testing service have found varied ancestries. These studies found that on average, African Americans have 73.2–82.1% West African, 16.7%–24% European, and 0.8–1.2% Native American genetic ancestry, with large variation between individuals.[30][31][32]

Genetics websites themselves have reported similar ranges, with some finding 1 or 2 percent Native American ancestry and reporting an outlying percentage of European ancestry among African Americans of 29%.[33] 38% of African Americans have Irish ancestry.[34]


Most of the first African Americans were brought to North America as part of the Atlantic slave trade. African slaves were brought to North America from 1619 to 1808. After the United States became independent, slavery became illegal in most northern states. At the same time, slavery grew more important to the economy of the southern states. Many African American slaves worked on plantations (large farms) that grew cotton and tobacco.[35] Plantation work was very difficult and slaves were often whipped and physically punished. It was illegal for slaves to learn how to read and write. White men often raped slave women, but were not punished.[36]

At the same time, there were many free African Americans in the north. Unlike slaves, they were allowed to start churches, write newspapers, and sometimes own property.[37] Frederick Douglass was an important abolitionist (fighter against slavery). Harriet Tubman helped to create the Underground Railroad, which helped African Americans to sneak away from their masters and become free. During the American Civil War from 1861-1865, the south broke away from the United States to form the Confederate States of America, or Confederacy. The United States won the war, and in 1865, it freed all slaves (about 4 million) by the 13th amendment.

African Americans were not slaves anymore, but white southerners passed laws called Black Codes that took away their freedom. Some African Americans served in government, but after 1877, the white southerners mostly kept them out of government. Whites founded the Ku Klux Klan to scare African Americans and stop them from voting.[35] Most southern African Americans became sharecroppers. Sharecropping was a system in which the farmers rented the land from the landowner and had to pay the landowner part of their crops.[38] Jim Crow laws segregated white and black people. Black people had to go to different schools and usually live in different neighborhoods than white people. Many businesses were for whites only. The Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson said that black and white facilities could be separate but equal, but facilities for black people were usually worse. Lynching was often practiced against African Americans.

In the early 1900s, African American culture grew with the Harlem Renaissance, an artistic and literary movement in New York City. The NAACP was founded to improve the lives of African Americans. Leaders had different ideas about what was best for African Americans. Booker T. Washington thought they should go to vocational schools to get better jobs. W.E.B. Du Bois thought university education was more important. Marcus Garvey believed that African Americans should move to Africa to have a country of their own.[35] During the Great Migration, from the 1910s to the 1960s, African Americans moved from the south to cities in the north and west. At the beginning, only 10% of African Americans lived outside the south, but by the end, 47% lived in the north and west.[39] Segregation also existed in the north. Redlining stopped people who lived in African American neighborhoods from buying homes.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement called for equality between African Americans and whites. The 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education banned racial segregation in schools. Many Southern schools still stopped black students from attending, until 1957, when federal troops forced a school in Little Rock, Arkansas to allow black students (called the Little Rock Nine). In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus. This started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which involved Martin Luther King. King and Malcolm X were two leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, but they were both killed in the 1960s. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act banned discrimination based on race.[40]

Racism against African Americans is still prevalent in 2020. In 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd was killed by a white police officer. Black Lives Matter is a movement which started in 2013.

Language and society

Neil Degrasse Tyson

With their American born children came the first generation of English speaking African Americans. But this development was not the same all over the country. For example; even today the Gullah of the Sea Islands off the Carolina and Georgia coasts still speak a language that is a blend of several African languages. They are the descendants of slaves from different countries in Africa.

In the United States when Americans say African-American or Black, they are referring to the same people. Both terms describe an ethnic group that came to exist in the United States. The Africans who were brought to America as slaves were from different nationalities and did not all speak the same language. They became a new blended ethnic group with a new language that was not their own: English.

Blacks used to be segregated in schools but since the 1960s were able to join major schools, colleges and universities. In the second half of the 20th century, reading-ability rates for blacks increased.


A traditional soul food dinner: Fried chicken with macaroni and cheese, collard greens, breaded fried okra and cornbread.

African Americans have influenced various forms of music, including Hip hop, R&B, funk, rock and roll, soul, blues, and other contemporary American musical forms while older black forms of music included blues, doo-wop, barbershop, ragtime, bluegrass, jazz, and gospel music. Michael Jackson, an African-American pop singer, released an album called Thriller in 1982 which is the best-selling album of all time. In the nineties Beyonce Knowles became famous as the lead singer of the R&B girl band Destiny's Child. In the 2000s she started releasing music on her own. Her first album Dangerously in Love sold 11 million copies and won five Grammy Awards.

Black culture has been the subject of documentaries. For example, the award-winning Black Is, Black Ain't explores black identity. Good Hair discusses the significance of having 'good hair' for black women in American culture.

There is a National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.

Protestant Christianity is the most practised religion by African Americans.

Soul food is a cuisine eaten by African Americans in the South. Fried chicken, mac and cheese, cornbread, collard greens and candied yams is typical soul food.

Kwanzaa and Juneteenth are popular African American holidays.

Racism and issues

African Americans are more likely to experience racism. African American males are more likely to be killed by police, which resulted in the Black Lives Matter movement. African Americans are more likely to die from diseases like COVID-19, HIV, obesity and diabetes. African Americans still suffer from poverty and unemployment. African Americans are more likely to eat fast food. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and homicide is the main causes of death for African Americans.[41]

The suicide rate for African Americans increased due to racism, police brutality and the COVID-19 pandemic.[42]

Related pages


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 2020 U.S. Census
  2. "Religious tradition by race/ethnicity (2014)". The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. 
  3. "Top 10 Cities with Highest African American Population of 100,000 or more people". 
  4. Forson, Tracy Scott (22 February 2018). "Who is an ‘African American’? Definition evolves as USA does". USA Today. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  5. Hebert, Keith S. (2 August 2017). "Slavery" (in en). Alabama Humanities Alliance. 
  6. Stirgus, Eric (28 June 2011). "PolitiFact - Who's right? Cities lay claim to civil rights "cradle" mantle." (in en). Poynter Institute 2020. 
  7. Poole, Shelia; Paul, Peralte C. (29 June 2003). "A CHAMPION FOR ATLANTA: Maynard Jackson: ‘Black mecca’ burgeoned under leader" (in English). The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  8. Booth, William (18 April 1996). "Atlanta is less than festive on eve of another freaknik'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  9. Bullard, Robert Doyle (2007) (in en). The Black Metropolis in the Twenty-first Century: Race, Power, and Politics of Place. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-4329-4 . 
  10. Dent, David J. (2001) (in en). In Search Of Black America: Discovering The African-American Dream. Free Press. ISBN 978-0-7432-0305-0 . 
  11. Cobb, William Jelani (13 July 2008). "The New South's Capital Likes to Contradict Itself". pp. 1-2. Archived from the original on 6 August 2021. 
  12. Stafford, Leon (6 August 2010). "Georgia second in nation for black-owned businesses". Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. 
  13. Company, Johnson Publishing (September 1997) (in en). Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  14. (in en) Atlanta contest shows battered black electorate. NBC News. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  15. Writer, Errin HainesAssociated Press (November 5, 2009). "Race, attacks expected in Atlanta mayor runoff" (in en). Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  16. Company, Johnson Publishing (2002) (in en). Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  17. Company, Johnson Publishing (1971) (in en). Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  18. Company, Johnson Publishing (1971) (in en). Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. 
  19. Communications, Emmis (2003) (in en). Atlanta Magazine. Emmis Communications. 
  20. Saporta, Maria (October 19, 2009). "Upcoming city elections will show how Atlanta is undergoing profound changes" (in en). Archived from the original on November 2, 2013. 
  21. Ltd, Earl G. Graves (1987) (in en). Black Enterprise. Earl G. Graves, Ltd.. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  22. Gates Jr, Henry Louis (2007) (in en). America Behind The Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0-446-53390-4 . 
  23. Severson, Kim (26 November 2011). "Stars Flock to Atlanta, Reshaping a Center of Black Culture". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  24. Newton, James E. (27 June 1997). "Black Americans in Delaware: An Overview". University of Delaware. 
  25. "Georgia QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau". 2011. 
  26. "The African American Story | Texas State History Museum" (in en). 
  27. Frey, William H. (May 2004) The New Great Migration: Black Americans' Return to the South, 1965–2000 . The Brookings Institution. Report.
  28. "Texas –". 
  29. "How the Eastside Became Home to San Antonio's Black Community" (in en-US). January 15, 2018. 
  30. Bryc, Katarzyna; Auton, Adam; Nelson, Matthew R.; Oksenberg, Jorge R.; Hauser, Stephen L.; Williams, Scott; Froment, Alain; Bodo, Jean-Marie et al. (12 January 2010). "Genome-wide patterns of population structure and admixture in West Africans and African Americans". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (2): 786–791. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  31. Bryc, Katarzyna; Durand, Eric Y.; Macpherson, J. Michael; Reich, David; Mountain, Joanna L. (8 January 2015). "The genetic ancestry of African Americans, Latinos, and European Americans across the United States". American Journal of Human Genetics 96 (1): 37–53. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2014.11.010 . ISSN 1537-6605 . PMC 4289685 . PMID 25529636 . Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  32. Baharian, Soheil; Barakatt, Maxime; Gignoux, Christopher R.; Shringarpure, Suyash; Errington, Jacob; Blot, William J.; Bustamante, Carlos D.; Kenny, Eimear E. et al. (27 May 2016). "The Great Migration and African-American Genomic Diversity" (in en). PLOS Genetics 12 (5): e1006059. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1006059 . ISSN 1553-7404 . Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  33. Gates Jr, Henry Louis (February 2, 2013). "Exactly How ‘Black’ Is Black America?" (in en-us). 
  34. Nadal, Cecilia (12 April 2017) (in en). The Irish and African-American Connection. St. Louis American. Archived from the original on 6 August 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 "Black History Milestones: Timeline" (in en). A&E Television Networks, LLC.. 14 October 2009. 
  36. "Slave Life and Slave Codes ["]. Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia. 
  37. "African American Odyssey: Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period (Part 1)". 
  38. "Sharecropping" (in en). 
  39. Wilkerson, Isabel. "The Long-Lasting Legacy of the Great Migration" (in en). 
  40. "A Look Back at Segregation in the United States" (in en). 
  41. Noonan, Allan S.; Velasco-Mondragon, Hector Eduardo; Wagner, Fernando A. (3 October 2016). "Improving the health of African Americans in the USA: an overdue opportunity for social justice". Public Health Reviews 37 (1): 12. doi:10.1186/s40985-016-0025-4 . ISSN 2107-6952 . Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  42. Tareen, Sophia (12 July 2020). "Pandemic, racism compound worries about Black suicide rate". The Denver Post. Retrieved 6 August 2021. 
  1. Meaning "1 % or more"