Yoruba (yō´rōōbä), people of SW Nigeria and Benin, numbering about 20 million. Today many of the large cities in Nigeria (including Lagos, Ibadan, and Abeokuta) are in Yorubaland. The old Yoruba kingdom of Oyo was traditionally one of the largest states of W Africa, but after the mid-1700s its power slowly waned. At the beginning of the 19th cent., Fulani invasions, slave raids from Dahomey, and the growing contact with Europeans divided the Yoruba into a number of small states. In the second half of the 19th cent. the Yoruba gradually fell under British control, and they were under direct British administration from 1893 until 1960. Yoruba religion includes a variety of gods. Vestiges of Yoruba culture are also found in Brazil and Cuba, where Yoruba were imported as slaves.
See G. J. A. Ojo, Yoruba Culture (1967); E. Krapf-Askari, Yoruba Towns and Cities (1969); R. S. Smith, Kingdoms of the Yoruba (1969); H. Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes (1973).