African Diaspora

By the 1500s, thousands of Africans had been brought to the New World through slave trade. Captured from their homelands and separated from their communities and families, the Africans were sent to the Americas to work on the plantations or in the mines of South America. The Africans brought to the New World not only their labor, but also their knowledge in different fields.

The largest number of African immigrants settled in Virginia, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. The slave trade brought to the Americas between ten and twenty million Africans. After slave trade was abolished, the number of Africans who came to the United States was very low. Only 350 people from Africa settled in the United States between 1891 and 1900. Between 1900 and 1950, during the period of colonial rule, 31,000 Africans migrated to the United States.

Now Africans are voluntarily coming to the United States in search of a better life. Most of the African immigrants come from Nigeria, South Africa, Liberia, Cape Verde, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and Liberia. African immigrants represent around 6 percent of all the immigrants in the United States. More than half of them immigrated between 1990 and 2000 and only 1.6 percent of the black population in the United States was born there. African immigrants are dispersed throughout the country, numbering more than 150 in each state. New York has the largest African community, followed by California, Texas, and Maryland.

Latin America and the Caribbean were the first parts of the Americas where the African immigrants arrived. African immigration in the Americas is likely to have begun even before the European exploration. However, the demand for an African slave labor force started to increase at the end of the 16th century due to a decrease in the indigenous population in Mexico and Peru. A bigger number of slaves were needed on the plantations in Brazil.

By the 1780s, slavery started to be condemned by evangelicals who preached the equality of all human beings. A succession of events which led to the abolishment of slavery followed, including the restriction of the number of slaves that ships could transport and the death penalty for those involved in the slave trade.

Africans currently represent 45 percent of Brazil's population and 64 percent of them are part of the country's poorest inhabitants. Colombia has the second largest African population in Latin America. Although they are considered to represent between 19 percent and 26 percent of the country's population, Colombia's 2005 national census showed that only 11 percent of them self-identified as Africans. Most of the Afro-Colombian population lives in rural areas on the Pacific coast. Some 80 percent of the Africans in Colombia live in extreme poverty.

Although the history of African Europeans is little known, there is evidence of their existence on the continent from the ancient Greece and Rome time. Their number started to increase as transport infrastructure developed and commerce flourished. Now more African descendants are integrated in European societies, although problems related to migration laws might occur in different areas.

Africans usually migrated to their former colonial powers: Great Britain, France, and Portugal. More than one million Africans are living in Europe at present. Starting in the 1970s, these countries were no longer open to immigrants as they tried to protect their own citizens' jobs. At that time, immigration to the United States became an option.

The African immigrants' life revolves around their community. Africans have brought their culture and customs to their countries of immigration. They create national, regional, cultural and even political organizations within which they develop strong connections. The African immigrants usually belong to more than one group, demonstrating the many layers of identity they have brought with them. Different types of associations and churches are places they receive comfort and support from their fellow citizens while facing hard times.

The African immigrants' organizations fill most of their needs. On the one hand, they maintain their socio-cultural traditions, serving as places where traditional ceremonies are organized. On the other hand, these organizations can be involved in the development of their home communities by raising funds for a wide range of national or local programs.

African immigrants prefer to live their lives surrounded by compatriots and keep themselves away from the culture of their host countries which they sometimes find as promoting materialism and individualism. This explains the fact that very few are active in the political life of the country which has adopted them.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

New African Diasporas
Khalid Koser.
Routledge, 2003
Invisible Sojourners: African Immigrant Diaspora in the United States
John A. Arthur.
Praeger, 2000
Diasporic Africa: A Reader
Michael A. Gomez.
New York University Press, 2006
The African Diaspora in Canada: Negotiating Identity and Belonging
Wisdom J. Tettey; Korbla P. Puplampu.
University of Calgary Press, 2005
The Akan Diaspora in the Americas
Kwasi Konadu.
Oxford University Press, 2010
Rethinking American History in a Global Age
Thomas Bender.
University of California Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Five "How the West Was One: The African Diaspora and the Re-Mapping of U.S. History"
Diaspora, Identity, and Religion: New Directions in Theory and Research
Waltraud Kokot; Khachig Tölölyan; Carolin Alfonso.
Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Griots, Roots, and Identity in the African Diaspora"
Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora
Joseph M. Murphy.
Beacon Press, 1994
The African Diaspora: A Musical Perspective
Ingrid Monson.
Routledge, 2003
Representation and Resistance: South Asian and African Women's Texts at Home and in the Diaspora
Jaspal Kaur Singh.
University of Calgary Press, 2008
The African Diaspora & Autobiographics: Skeins of Self and Skin
Chinosole.
Peter Lang, 2001
Kentecloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora : the Oral Tradition Comes to the Page
Jas. Mardis.
University of North Texas Press, 1997
Signs of Diaspora/Diaspora of Signs: Literacies, Creolization, and Vernacular Practice in African America
Grey Gundaker.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Black British Culture and Society: A Text-Reader
Kwesi Owusu.
Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 40 "Writing Home: Reconfiguring the (English)-African Diaspora"
Tourism, Diasporas, and Space
Tim Coles; Dallen J. Timothy.
Routledge, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "American Children of the African Diaspora: Journeys to the Motherland"
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