|African : 3,183,104 (Subsaharan African: 2,847,199 + North African: 335,895) (2010 U.S. Census) |
|Regions with significant populations|
|Washington, D.C., New York City, Maryland, California, Miami, Minneapolis, Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Houston, Iowa City|
|English (African English, American English), Arabic, Igbo, Yoruba, Akan, Lingala, French, Wolof, Swahili, Amharic, Somali, Tigrinya, Berber, Afrikaans, Hausa, Portuguese, Cape Verdean Crioulo, Spanish, others|
|Related ethnic groups|
|other African people|
African immigration to the United States refers to immigrants to the United States who are or were nationals of modern African countries. The term African in the scope of this article refers to geographical or national origins rather than racial affiliation. Between the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and 2007, an estimated total of 0.8 to 0.9 million Africans immigrated to the United States, accounting for roughly 3.3% of all total U.S. immigrants during this period.
African immigrants in the United States come from almost all regions in Africa and do not constitute a homogeneous group. They include peoples from different national, linguistic, ethnic, racial, cultural and social backgrounds. As such, African immigrants are distinct from African Americans, many of whose ancestors were involuntarily brought from West Africa and Central Africa to British North America by means of the historic Atlantic slave trade.
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. Immigration from Africa was theoretically permitted, unlike non-white immigration from Asia.
Several laws enforcing national origins quotas on U.S. immigration were enacted between 1921 and 1924 and were in effect until they were repealed in 1965. While the laws were aimed at restricting the immigration of Jews and Catholics from Southern and Eastern Europe and immigration from Asia, they also impacted African immigrants. The 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 U.S. in 1890. Under the system, the quota for immigrants from Africa (excluding Egypt) totaled 1,100 (the number was increased to 1,400 under the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act.)  That contrasted to immigrants from Germany, which had a limit of 51,227.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (also known as the Hart-Celler 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 act also provided greater opportunity for family reunification.
The Diversity Visa Program, or green card lottery, is a program created by the Immigration Act of 1990. It allows people born in countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to obtain a lawful permanent resident status. Each year, 50 000 of those visas are distributed at random. Almost 38% of those visas were attributed to African born immigrants in 2016. African born persons also represent the most numerous group among the applicants since 2013. The application is free of charge, and the requirements in terms of education are either a high school diploma or two years of a professional experience requiring at least two years of training.
The continent of Africa has seen many changes in migrations patterns over the course of history. The graph below shows African immigration to the United States in 2016 based on class of admission with numbers from the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook.
The influx of African immigrants began in the latter part of the 20th century and is often referred to as the "fourth great migration." About three-fourths of all out-migration from Africa went to the United States after 1990. This trend began after decolonization, as many Africans moved to the U.S. seeking an education and to escape poverty, and has risen steadily over time. Originally, these immigrants came with the sole purpose of advancing themselves before returning to their respective countries. Nevertheless, many immigrants never return. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of African immigrants interested in gaining permanent residence in the U.S.; this has led to a severe brain drain on the economies of African countries due to many skilled hard-working Africans leaving Africa to seek their economic fortunes in the U.S. mainly and elsewhere.
One major factor that contributes to migration from Africa to the United States is labor opportunities. It has been relatively easier for African immigrants for Africans with advanced education to leave and enter international labor markets. In addition, many Africans move to the United States for advanced training. For example, doctors from different African nations would move to the U.S. in order to gain more economic opportunities compared to their home country. However, as more Africans emigrate to the United States, their reasoning and factors tend to become more complex.
Many Africans who migrate to the United States return their income to Africa in the source of remittances. In Nigeria, for example, remittances from Nigerians in the United States to Nigeria totaled to $6.1 billion in 2012, approximately 3% of Nigeria's GDP. The important role of remittances in improving the lives of family members in the United States has led to both migration and migrants remaining in the United States.
Following educational and economic trends of migration, family reunification has driven recent trends of migration. Family reunification refers to the ability of U.S. citizens to sponsor family members for immigration. Sponsoring immediate family members and other family preferences led to 45% and 10% of all African immigration in 2016 respectively. Legal service organizations such as the African Advocacy Network aid in family members sponsoring new immigrants to the United States.
Additionally, refugees make up a large class of admission to the United States. Recent crises in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Burundi have been sources of migrants in recent years. With recent restrictions on refugee entrance to the United States, refugees may face a harder time entering the United States.
|Ancestry||2000||2000 (% of U.S. population)||2010||2010 (% of U.S. population)|
|"African"||1,183,316||negligible (no data)||1,676,413||negligible (no data)|
|Algerian||8,752||negligible (no data)||14,716||negligible (no data)|
|Angolan||1,642||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Cameroonian||8,099||negligible (no data)||16,894||negligible (no data)|
|Cape Verdean||77,103||negligible (no data)||95,003||negligible (no data)|
|Congolese||5,488 (of the Democratic Republic of the Congo)||negligible (no data)||11,009||negligible (no data)|
|"Eastern Africans"||2,129||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Egyptian||142,832||negligible (no data)||197,000||negligible (no data)|
|Eritrean||18,917||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Ethiopian||68,001||negligible (no data)||202,715||negligible (no data)|
|Gambian||3,035||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Ghanaian||49,944||negligible (no data)||91,322||negligible (no data)|
|Guinea||3,016||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Ivorian||3,110||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Kenyan||17,336||negligible (no data)||51,749||negligible (no data)|
|Liberian||25,575||negligible (no data)||51,296||negligible (no data)|
|Libyan||2,979||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Malian||1,790||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Moroccan||38,923||negligible (no data)||82,073||negligible (no data)|
|Nigerian||162,938||negligible (no data)||264,550||negligible (no data)|
("North Africans": 3,217; "Berbers": 1,327)
|negligible (no data)|
|Rwandan||1,480||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Senegalese||6,124||negligible (no data)||11,369||negligible (no data)|
|Sierra Leonean||12,410||negligible (no data)||16,929||negligible (no data)|
|Somali||36,313||negligible (no data)||120,102||negligible (no data)|
|South African||44,991||negligible (no data)||57,491||negligible (no data)|
|Sudanese||14,458||negligible (no data)||42,249||negligible (no data)|
|Tanzanian||2,921||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Togolese||1,716||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Tunisian||4,735||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Ugandan||4,707||negligible (no data)||12,549||negligible (no data)|
|"Western African"||6,810||negligible (no data)|
|Zambian||1,500||negligible (no data)||negligible (no data)|
|Zimbabwean||4,521||negligible (no data)||7,323||negligible (no data)|
|TOTAL||More that 1,000,000||0.2%||NA||NA|
|Metropolitan area||African population||% of total metro population|
|Washington, DC, MD-VA-WV||171,000||2.9|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN||70,100||1.3|
|Baltimore Area, MD||33,100||1.2|
|New York, NY||223,000||1.1|
|Dallas–Fort Worth, TX||64,300||0.9|
|Greater Los Angeles Area||68,100||0.5|
|San Francisco Bay Area||24,500||0.5|
It is estimated that the current population of African immigrants to the United States is about 2.1 million. According to the Migration Policy Institute, as of 2009 two-thirds of the African immigrants were from either East or West Africa. Countries with the most immigrants to the U.S. are Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, Somalia, Eritrea, and Kenya. Seventy five percent (75%) of the African immigrants to the U.S. come from 12 of the 55 countries, namely Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, Liberia, Somalia, Morocco, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone and Sudan (including what is now the independent country of South Sudan), which is based on the 2000 census data.
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.
Africans typically congregate in urban areas, moving to suburban areas over time. They are also one of the least likeliest groups to live in racially segregated areas. The goals of Africans vary tremendously. While some look to create new lives in the US, 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. Ogbuagu (2013) found that Diasporic Nigerians across the globe reportedly remitted $21 billion (N3.36 trillion-Naira) to the homeland in 2012 alone.
Immigrants from Africa, once they arrive in the U.S., typically settle in heavily urban areas upon arrival. Areas such as Washington, D.C., New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, 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.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are officially 40,000 African immigrants, although it has been estimated that the population is actually four times this number when considering undocumented immigrants. The majority of these immigrants were born in Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa.
African immigrants like many other immigrant groups are likely to establish and find success in small businesses. Many Africans that have seen the social and economic stability that comes from ethnic enclaves such as Chinatowns have recently been establishing ethnic enclaves of their own at much higher rates to reap the benefits of such communities. Such examples include Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles and Little Senegal in New York City.
African immigrants to the US 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. 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.
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. 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.
Of the African-born population in the US age 25 and older, 87.9% reported having a high school degree or higher, compared with 78.8% of Asian-born immigrants and 76.8% of European-born immigrants, respectively. 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.
U.S. immigrants that come from predominantly black nations in Africa and South America are generally healthier than black immigrants from predominantly white nations or from 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, studied the health of more than 2,900 black immigrants from top regions of emigration: the West Indies, Africa, South America and Europe. Black people born in Africa and South America have been shown to be healthier than U.S.-born black people. The study was published in the September issue of Social Forces and is the first to look at the health of black immigrants by their region of origin.
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. 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 nonprofits 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; they are seen not only as religious institutions, but in many cases also as civic centers. These organizations are central to persevering ethnic identity among these communities. African immigrant religious communities are also central networks and provide services such as counseling, shelter, employment, financial assistance, health services, and real estate tips.
African immigrants practice a diverse array of religions, including Christianity, Islam, and various traditional faiths. Of these adherents, the largest number are Pentecostals/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."
Among popular denominational churches are the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Celestial Church of Christ, Cherubim and Seraphim, Christ Apostolic Church, 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  Christ Embassy.
Additionally, Ethiopians and Eritreans 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.
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, Maryland, which has a Pan-African congregation. It also conducts services 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 native languages of the congregation.
Muslim immigrants from nations in Africa adhere to diverse Islamic traditions. These include various Sunni, Shia and Sufi mainstream orders and schools (madhhab) from West Africa, the Swahili Coast, the Indian Ocean islands, the Horn of Africa and North Africa.
Many local cable channels are now purchasing programming channels operated by various African communities. For example, the Africa Channel is broadcast in the United States through Comcast, Time Warner Cable, COX Communications and also available in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia, Barbados, Bermuda, Grenada and other islands throughout the Caribbean. The channel is a showcase for outstanding travel, lifestyle and cultural series, specials and documentaries. These programs feature people of African descent and their stories. 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 U.S. through national distribution deals with the largest cable MSOs in the country, including Comcast, Time Warner, and Cox.
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.
TV news services such as the Nigerian Television Authority, South African Broadcasting Channel and Ethiopian Television Programming are also available in some areas.
Launched on October 1st, 2017, Demand Africa offers 24-7 access to the largest curated collection of Pan-African TV shows, series, soaps, movies and lifestyle entertainment direct from the African continent. Demand Africa launched with the mission of creating a destination throughout the world, both as a connection to the continent and an introduction to new voices reflective of Africa’s rich and diverse culture as well as to creating and fostering the development of content creators on the African continent by giving back 60% the service's subscription revenue back to the featured creators and distributors. Demand Africa is accessible worldwide and everywhere the following platforms are available the web, iOS, Android, and via Roku, Apple TV, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV.
Nigerian films and Ghanaian films can now be rented or purchased from Nigerian and Ghanaian stores and the like in Africa. They are very popular among Africans in the U.S. from many different countries.
Immigrants from Africa have opened restaurants in urban areas. The DC, Atlanta and NYC Metro areas host many eateries belonging to the Liberian, Senegalese, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Tanzanian, South African and other communities.
The New York Times and academic scholar Nnamdi O. Madichie have credited American African artists Kelela and Akon for employing fluidity of their cultural heritage through their U.S. and African identities. Recently, academic scholars have brought attention to the influence of African American music on U.S. culture. According to ethnomusicologist Portia Maultsby, African immigrant artists have impacted the U.S. through fashion and mainstream music by utilizing their cultural heritage as a foundation for their artistry. In “Marketing Senegal through hip-hop-a discourse analysis of Akon’s music and lyrics”, Madichie cites Senegalese-American singer, Akon, as a first-generation African immigrant musician whose music and lyrics create a confluence of West Africa-styled vocals mixed with North America’s East Coast and Southern beats. In Mama Africa and Senegal, Akon builds connections between Diasporic communities and the “homeland” through his music. An examination of the role of Black American entrepreneurs in the hip-hop industry suggests that young Black people have been able to influence the White dominated music industry through transforming “Blackness into capital, staffing and business connections”. The New York Times article, “25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going” illustrates how African immigrants have used their heritage to influence a new sound of mainstream music in the U.S. Wortham cites Kelela, an Ethiopian-American musician, as an American African immigrant who has impacted U.S. culture by defying the notion that Blackness is monolithic through music that pushes the boundaries of R&B in uninhibited experimentation.
Ethnomusicologist Mellonee Burnim’s area of aesthetic significance are style of delivery, sound quality, and mechanics of delivery-qualities common to African-derived music. Style of delivery is one of the most important aspects of Africanisms in music. This refers to the stage presentation and physical appearance of when music is performed. Physical appearance is a fundamental part of the Black cultural expression in regard to African-American music. The sways and sashays as well as the physical appearance of African immigrant musicians has a significant influence on U.S. culture exemplified through fashion trends. Along with style of delivery, sound quality is another significant tradition of Black music that derives from Africanisms. The sound quality of African-American music distinguishes itself because of its African sentiments that are foreign to Western patterns. Maultsby describes how in Africa and the black diaspora, black musicians have managed to cultivate an array of unique sounds that imitate nature, animals, spirits, and speech into their music. Mechanics of delivery involves improvisation of time, text, and pitch to deliver Black audiences a variety in performances. Textures can be increased through solo voices or adding layers of handclaps. This technique described as “staggered entrances” derives from the improvised singing of slaves. Time is another basic component that can be expanded by extending the length of notes. Finally, pitch produces juxtaposing voices of different ranges in a single voice.
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; at Caltech, 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Winner Ahmed Zewail from Egypt; at Yale, professor Lamin Sanneh  from Gambia; at Pennsylvania State University, professor Augustin Banyaga, from Rwanda; at Harvard, professors Jacob Olupona, from Nigeria, Barack Obama Sr. from Kenya, Emmanuel K. Akyeampong from Ghana, Biodun Jeyifo from Nigeria, and John Mugane from Kenya; and at Princeton, Adel Mahmoud  from Egypt, Wole Soboyejo from Nigeria, Simon Gikandi  from Kenya, V. Kofi Agawu from Ghana, and Kwame Anthony Appiah from Ghana.
In the arts, Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron and Grammy Award-winning musician Dave Matthews, both white South Africans; and two-time Academy Award-nominated actor Djimon Hounsou and Grammy-winning musician Angelique Kidjo, both from Benin; and recently Lupita Nyong'o and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, are most notable.
The following is a list of notable African nationals who have immigrated to and now at least partially reside in the US.
Ogbuagu, B.C. (2013). Remittances and in-kind products as agency for community development and anti-poverty sustainability: Making a case for Diasporic Nigerians. International Journal of Development and Sustainability 2(3),1828-1857. Online ISSN: 2168-8662 – www.isdsnet.com/ijds ISDS Article ID: IJDS13052905 [isdsnet.com] [www.isdsnet.com]