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Afro-Bahamians The Bahamas
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Bahamas circa 344,844 (2017)
 United States of America circa 55,000 (2015)
Bahamian dialect, English
Christianity, Islam, Rastafarism

Afro-Bahamians are an ethnicity originating in The Bahamas of predominantly African descent. They are descendants of various African ethnic groups, many associated with the Empires of Ghana, Songhai and Mali, the various Fula Kingdoms, the Oyo Empire, and the Kingdom of Kongo to name a few. According to the 2010 Census, 92.7% of The Bahamas' population identifies as African.[1]


Most Africans brought to The Bahamas were West African. Slaves came from West Central Africa (3,967 Africans), the Bight of Biafra (1,751 Africans), Sierra Leone (1,187 Africans), the Bight of Benin (1,044 Africans), the Windward Coast (1,030 Africans), Senegambia (806 Africans) and from the Gold Coast (484 Africans).[2]

Afro Bahamians originally came by way of Bermuda with the Eleutheran Adventurers in the 17th century, many also came directly from Africa, during the 18th and 19th centuries, the loyalists migrated to the Bahamas bringing thousands of Africans with them from Georgia and South Carolina, since the 19th century many Afro-Haitians were settling in the southern Bahamas.

According to Genetics the largest Y haplogroup found in Bahamians is Haplogroup E-M2, based on 428 samples taken from 6 Islands of the Bahamas. E-M2 was found at a frequency of 18.69%, while the two next highest frequencies examined were subclades of E-M2, E-U174 at 17.52% and E-U290 at 10.05%. According to Simms "Moderate levels of undifferentiated M2* chromosomes throughout the archipelago also allude to genetic signatures from West Africa, with the Mande speakers from Senegal and Burkina Faso (de Filippo et al., 2011) displaying the highest frequencies and groups from Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon exhibiting appreciable proportions".[3]


The earliest African inhabitants of the Bahamas came during the 1640s from Bermuda and England with the Eleutheran Adventurers, many were also brought from other parts of the West Indies.

In the 1780s after the American Revolutionary war, many British loyalists resettled in the Bahamas. This migration brought some 7000 people, the vast majority being African slaves from the Gullah people in Georgia and the Carolinas. Some Africans earned their freedoms and immigrated to the Bahamas by fighting for the British during the American Revolutionary War as members of the Ethiopian Regiment. This migration made the Bahamian population majority of African descent for the first time, with a proportion of 2 to 1 over the European inhabitants.[4]

There was also an additional 9,560 people brought directly from Africa to Bahamas from 1788 - 1807. 1807 was when the British abolished the slave trade.[5]

In 1807, the British abolished the slave trade. Throughout the 19th century, close to 7000 Africans were resettled in the Bahamas after being freed from slave ships by the Royal Navy, which intercepted the trade, in the Bahamian islands. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire on 1 August 1834.

In the 1820s, hundreds of African American slaves and Seminoles escaped from Cape Florida to the Bahamas, settling mostly on northwest Andros Island, where they developed the village of Red Bays. In 1823, 300 slaves escaped in a mass flight aided by Bahamians in 27 sloops, with others using canoes for the journey. This was commemorated in 2004 by a large sign at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.[6][7] Some of their descendants continue Seminole traditions in basket making and grave marking.[8]

In 1818,[9] the Home Office in London had ruled that "any slave brought to The Bahamas from outside the British West Indies would be manumitted." This led to a total of nearly 300 slaves owned by U.S. nationals being freed from 1830 to 1835.[10] The American slave ships Comet and Encomium, used in its domestic coastwise slave trade, had wrecked off Abaco Island in December 1830 and February 1834, respectively. When wreckers took the masters, passengers, and slaves into Nassau, customs officers seized the slaves and British colonial officials freed them, over the protests of the Americans. There were 165 slaves on the Comet and 48 on the Encomium. Britain paid an indemnity to the US in those two cases.[11]

British colonial officials also freed 78 American slaves from the Enterprise, which went into Bermuda in 1835; and 38 from the Hermosa, which wrecked off Abaco island in 1840, after abolition was effective in August 1834.[12] The most notable case was that of the Creole in 1841, the Creole case was the result of a slave revolt whose leaders ordered the American brig to Nassau. It was carrying 135 slaves from Virginia destined for sale in New Orleans. The Bahamian officials freed the 128 slaves who chose to stay in the islands. The Creole case has been described as the "most successful slave revolt in US history".[13]

These incidents, in which a total of 447 slaves belonging to American nationals were freed by 1842, increased tension between the United States and Great Britain, although they had been cooperating in patrols to suppress the international slave trade. Worried about the stability of its domestic slave trade and its value, the US argued that Britain should not treat its domestic ships that came to its colonial ports under duress, as part of the international trade. The US worried that the success of the Creole's slaves in gaining freedom would encourage more slave revolts on merchant ships.

Bahamian culture

Junkanoo is a traditional Bahamian street parade of music, dance, and art held in Nassau every Boxing Day and New Year's Day. Junkanoo is also used to celebrate Emancipation Day.

Sloop Sailing Regatta - Is sailing using traditional Bahamian fishing boats for competition. It is presently being considered for National Sport of The Bahamas.


Obeah - Obeah is rarely practiced in the Bahamas, mainly within outer more rural islands and settlements.[14] The practice of Obeah is, however, illegal in The Bahamas and punishable by law.[15]

Obeah is a common topic of conversation and pop-culture in the Bahamas:

  • Various local songwriters reference Obeah in their music.
  • If you meet some kind of misfortune it is often jokingly blamed on "sperrits" or the devil.
  • When a man is deeply in love with a woman, local Bahamians tease him saying his lover gave him "Coo-Coo Soup," a love-potion like soup.

Sperrits- A Bahamian take on spirits. Much akin to the spirits of Obeah and Voodoo. They are said to reside in graveyards at night and wander the bushes of the islands. They can be good or evil in nature and are blamed for both inconveniences and strokes of luck. Obeah-men are said to be able to both call upon and control sperrits.

Shigidi- is a spirit from among the Yoruba Orisha that controls nightmares and is the patron Orisha of Assassins. A book written by Alfred Burdon Ellis published in 1894 called The Yoruba-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa: Their Religion, Manners, Customs. He mentions that the Superstition of Shigidi still lingers among the negroes of The Bahamas of Yoruba descent, who talks of being hagged(cursed) and believe that nightmare is caused by a demon that crouches upon the breast of the sleeper.[16]

Hags- are witch-like vampires that generally prey on good looking babies or women. They shed their skins when noticed and appear as floating candle-flames. They reside among the everyday inhabitants as humans.[17]

Major accomplishments

Bert Williams the first successful Bahamian actor on Broadway and comedian in The United States. Opening the doors for future generations of black entertainers to find success in the American entertainment industry.[18]

Sidney Poitier became the first African American / Afro-Bahamian person to win an Academy Award for lead actor in The US.[19]

Shaunae Miller-Uibo became the first Bahamian to hold two world records in Athletics, 200m straight and the 300m indoor record.[20]

Pauline Davis-Thompson became the first Bahamian to win an individual Olympic Gold medal at the 2000 Olympics following the disqualification of Marion Jones[21]

Allan Glaisyer Minns became the first mayor in Great Britain, being elected mayor of Thetford, Norfolk in 1904.

Tonique Williams-Darling became the first Bahamian to win an Olympic 400m gold in 2004, she also became the first Bahamian woman to win a World Championship Gold in the 400m in 2005.

Troy Kemp became the first Bahamian to win Gold at the World Championships in 1995. He won the High Jump.[22][circular reference]

Mychal Thompson became the first foreign born player to be selected number 1 overall in the NBA Draft in 1978.

Notable Bahamians

References and footnotes

  1. ^ "CIA - The World Factbook -- Bahamas, The". CIA. Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
  2. ^ "Photo by tght fthyt". Photobucket.
  3. ^ [] The Peopling of the Bahamas: A Phylogeographical Perspective
  4. ^ []
  5. ^ Caribbean and Southern: Transnational Perspectives on the U.S. South edited by Helen A. Regis pg 40
  6. ^ "Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park", Network to Freedom, National Park Service, 2010, accessed 10 April 2013
  7. ^ Charles Blacker Vignoles, Observations on the Floridas, New York: E. Bliss & E. White, 1823, pp. 135–136
  8. ^ Howard, Rosalyn. (2006) "The 'Wild Indians' of Andros Island: Black Seminole Legacy in the Bahamas," Journal of Black Studies. Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 275–298. Abstract on-line at [] Archived 2015-11-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Appendix: "Brigs Encomium and Enterprise", Register of Debates in Congress, Gales & Seaton, 1837, p. 251-253. Note: In trying to retrieve American slaves off the Encomium from colonial officials (who freed them), the US consul in February 1834 was told by the Lieutenant Governor that "he was acting in regard to the slaves under an opinion of 1818 by Sir Christopher Robinson and Lord Gifford to the British Secretary of State."
  10. ^ Gerald Horne, Negro Comrades of the Crown: African Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation, New York University (NYU) Press, 2012, p. 103
  11. ^ Horne (2012), Negro Comrades of the Crown, p. 137
  12. ^ Horne (2012), Negro Comrades of the Crown, pp. 107–108
  13. ^ Williams, Michael Paul (11 February 2002). "Brig Creole slaves". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Richmond, VA. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  14. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2005 - Bahamas". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  15. ^ [1] Archived June 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ The Yoruba-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa: Their Religion, Manners, Customs ... by Alfred Burdon Ellis Page 75
  17. ^ Items of folk-lore from Bahama Negroes page 36
  18. ^ "Blackface! - Bert Williams".
  19. ^ "Sidney Poitier wins Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field - Apr 13, 1964 -".
  20. ^ "Shaunae excited about world record performance - The Nassau Guardian".
  21. ^ "More comprehensive national presence advocated for Pauline Davis-Thompson - The Nassau Guardian".
  22. ^ "IAAF: Troy KEMP - Profile".