The first Yoruba people who arrived to the United States were imported as slaves from Nigeria and Benin during the Atlantic slave trade. This ethnicity of the slaves was one of the main origins of present-day Nigerians who arrived to the United States, along with the Igbo and Hausa. In addition, native slaves of current Benin hailed from peoples such as Nago (Yoruba subgroup,
although exported mainly by Spanish, when Louisiana was Spanish) -, Ewe, Fon and Gen. Many of the slaves imported to the modern United States from Benin were sold by the King of Dahomey, in Whydah.[note 1]
The slaves brought with them their cultural practices, languages, cuisine and religious beliefs rooted in spirit and ancestor worship. So, the manners of the Yoruba, Fon, Gen and Ewe of Benin were key elements of Louisiana Voodoo. Also Haitians, who migrated to Louisiana in the late nineteenth century and also contributed to Voodoo of this state, have the Yoruba and Ewe as their main origins.
The Yoruba, and some northern Nigerian ethnic groups, had tribal facial identification marks. These could have assisted a returning slave in relocating his or her ethnic group, but few slaves escaped the colonies. In the colonies, masters tried to dissuade the practice of tribal customs. They also sometimes mixed people of different ethnic groups to make it more difficult for them to communicate and bond together in rebellion.
After the slavery abolition in 1865, many modern Nigerian immigrants have come to the United States to pursue educational opportunities in undergraduate and post-graduate institutions. This was possible because in the 1960s and 1970s, after the Biafra War, Nigeria's government funded scholarships for Nigerian students, and many of them were admitted to American universities. While this was happening, there were several military coups and brief periods of civilian rule. All this caused many Nigerians to emigrate. Most of these Nigerian immigrants are of Yoruba, Igbo and Ibibio origins. Today, most African Americans share ancestry with the Yoruba people.
^Indeed, Dahomey was one of the main proslavery Kingdoms of West Africa during the colonial period of the Americas and the nineteenth century, arriving to his maximum economic splendor to late of the eighteenth century thanks to its slave trade with the European traders of many areas of the Americas (from the U.S. to Brazil). The majority of his slaves were, from that time, to second half of the nineteenth century, of Yoruba origin.
^Fouad Zakharia; Analabha Basu; Devin Absher; Themistocles L. Assimes; Alan S. Go; Mark A. Hlatky; Carlos Iribarren; Joshua W. Knowles; Jun Li; Balasubramanian Narasimhan; Stephen Sydney; Audrey Southwick; Richard M. Myers; Thomas Quertermous; Neil Risch; Hua Tang (December 22, 2009). "Characterizing the admixed African ancestry of African Americans"(pdf). Genome Biology. Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California, San Francisco. 10 (12). doi:10.1186/gb-2009-10-12-r141. Retrieved April 13, 2015.