- This article addresses the historical emigration from Africa. See recent African origin of modern humans for pre-historic human migration and emigration from Africa for recent migration.
The African diaspora refers to the communities throughout the world that are descended from the historic movement of peoples from Africa, predominantly to the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, among other areas around the globe. The term has been historically applied in particular to the descendants of the West and Central Africans who were enslaved and shipped to the Americas by way of the Atlantic slave trade, with the largest population in Brazil despite some misconceptions (see Afro-Brazilian), followed by the USA and others.
However, African Diaspora discourse and scholarship is changing in recent years to include various other populations of African descent who have been displaced and dispersed due to enslavement, genocide, and other global forces. As such, theories about mythical homelands, collective memory, the experience of racism, and the emergence of Pan-African sentiment are common among notions about the African Diaspora. In the contemporary moment, the ever-increasing demand for labor accounts for the ongoing displacement of Africans. Although four circulatory phases of migration out of Africa has been identified to talk about the African Diaspora, other scholars have entertained the possibility for various forms of diasporization among African-descended people (e.g. McKittrick, 2006).
With regard to all historic migrations (forced and voluntary), the African Union defined the African diaspora as
"[consisting] of people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union." Its constitutive act declares that it shall "invite and encourage the full participation of the African diaspora as an important part of our continent, in the building of the African Union."
- 1 History
- 2 Definitions
- 3 African Diaspora and Modernity
- 4 Estimated population and distribution
- 5 Largest 15 African diaspora populations
- 6 The Americas
- 7 Europe
- 8 Indian and Pacific Oceans
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Dispersal through slavery
Much of the African diaspora was dispersed throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas during the Arab and the Atlantic Slave Trades. Beginning in the 8th century, Arabs took African slaves from the central and eastern portions of the continent (where they were known as the Zanj) and sold them into markets in the Middle East and eastern Asia. Beginning in the 15th century, Europeans captured or bought African slaves from West Africa and brought them to Europe and later to the Americas. The Atlantic Slave Trade ended in the 19th century, and the Arab Slave Trade ended in the middle of the 20th century. The dispersal through slave trading represents the largest forced migrations in human history. The economic effect on the African continent was devastating. Some communities created by descendants of African slaves in Europe and Asia have survived to the modern day, but in other cases, blacks intermarried with non-blacks, and their descendants blended into the local population.
In the Americas, the confluence of multiple ethnic groups from around the world created multi-ethnic societies. In Central and South America, most people are descended from European, American Indian, and African ancestry. In Brazil, where in 1888 nearly half the population was descended from African slaves, the variation of physical characteristics extends across a broad range. In the United States, there was historically a greater European colonial population in relation to African slaves, especially in the Northern Tier. Racist Jim Crow and anti-miscegenation laws passed after the Reconstruction era in the South in the late nineteenth century, plus waves of vastly increased immigration from Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, maintained some distinction between racial groups. In the early 20th century, to institutionalize racial segregation, most southern states adopted the "one drop rule", which defined anyone with any discernible African ancestry as African.
Dispersal through voluntary migration
See Emigration from Africa for a general treatment of recent population movements.
From the very onset of Spanish exploration and colonial activities in the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africans participated both as voluntary expeditionaries and as involuntary laborers. Juan Garrido was one such black conquistador. He crossed the Atlantic as a freedman in the 1510s and participated in the siege of Tenochtitlan. However, Africans had been present in Asia and Europe long before Columbus' travels. And, beginning in the late 20th century, Africans began to emigrate to Europe and the Americas in increasing numbers, constituting new African Diaspora communities not directly connected with the slave trade.
The African Union defined the African diaspora as "[consisting] of people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union." Its constitutive act declares that it shall "invite and encourage the full participation of the African diaspora as an important part of our continent, in the building of the African Union."
Between 1500 and 1900, approximately four million enslaved Africans were transported to island plantations in the Indian Ocean, about eight million were shipped to Mediterranean-area countries, and about eleven million survived the Middle Passage to the New World. Their descendants are now found around the globe. Due to intermarriage and genetic assimilation, just who is a descendant of the African diaspora is not entirely self-evident.
African diaspora populations include:
- African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Latin Americans and Black Canadians - descendants of West African slaves brought to the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America during the Atlantic slave trade, plus later voluntary immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa and their descendants.
- Zanj - descendants of Zanj slaves whose ancestors were brought to the Near East and other parts of Asia during the Arab slave trade.
- Siddis - descendants of Zanj slaves whose ancestors were brought to the Indian subcontinent (Pakistan and India). Also referred to as the Makrani in Pakistan.
African Diaspora and Modernity
Studies on the African Diaspora have recently moved in the direction of understanding its role in the formation of modern times. This trend is in reaction to the traditional way in which Africans and its diasporans have been placed in history books, namely, as victims or people without much historical agency. Often Africans and their descendants are portrayed as representatives of primitive culture or slavery. The current consensus among specialists is that viewing the contribution of the African Diaspora to the history of modern times gives us a more complete appreciation of global history. The effect of the African diaspora on modernity can be viewed by the history and culture of the people from the African diaspora. African descendants around the world have kept their ties to the African continent creating a global community. They carried with them their culture, family values, views on government, and their spiritual beliefs.
Estimated population and distribution
|Continent or region||Country population||Afro-descendants|| Black and black-mixed population|
|Haiti||9,719,932||95%||9,233,935 + 476,277|
|Dominican Republic ||10,090,000||84%||1,109,900 + 7,365,700|
|Cuba||11,239,363||34.9%||1,132,928 + 2,794,106|
|Jamaica||2,909,714||97.4%||2,653,659 + 180,402|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1,047,366||58.0%||607,472|
|Puerto Rico||3,725,789||15.7%||461,998 + 122,951|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||118,432||85.0%||100,667|
|US Virgin Islands||108,210||79.7%||86,243|
|Dominica||71,293||95.7% (86.8% Black + 8.9% Mixed)||61,882 + 9,411|
|Antigua and Barbuda||78,000||94.9%||63,000|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||39,619||98.0%||38,827|
|British Virgin Islands||24,004||83.0%||19,923|
|Turks and Caicos islands||26,000||> 90.0%||18,000|
|Brazil||190,732,694||6.84% (black) + 43.80% if including (multiracial) pardo||13,046,116 + 83,540,920|
|Colombia||45,925,397||4.0% (black) + 3.0% (Zambo) + 14.0% (Mulatto)||1,837,015 + 1,377,762 + 6,429,556|
|El Salvador||7,066,403||< 0.1%||3,000|
|France||62,752,136||8.0% (inc. overseas territories)||3,800,000|
|United Kingdom||60,609,153||3.3% (inc. partial)||2,015,400|
|Republic of Ireland||4,339,000||1.1%||45,000|
|Hong Kong||7,200,000||< 0.3%||< 20,000|
(*)Note that population statistics from different sources and countries use highly divergent methods of rating the "race", ethnicity, or national or genetic origin of individuals, from observing for color and racial characteristics, to asking the person to choose from a set of pre-defined choices, sometimes with an Other category, and sometimes with an open-ended option, and sometimes not, which different national populations tend to choose in divergent ways. Color and visual characteristics were considered an invalid way to determine the genetic "racial" branch in anthropology (the field of science that original conceived of "race", as a genetic branch of people who could have a relative success together compared with other branches, now considered invalid) as of 1910, thus not fully reflecting the percentage of the population who actually are of African heritage.
Largest 15 African diaspora populations
|Brazil||85,783,143||including multiracial people, 6.84% (black) + 43.80%(multiracial) pardo|
|Trinidad and Tobago||607,472|
Autosomal genetic studies and the African contribution to Brazil
African ancestry has contributed to the formation of Brazil, along with European and Native American ancestries.
An autosomal study from 2013, with nearly 1300 samples from all of the Brazilian regions, found a pred. degree of European ancestry combined with African and Native American contributions, in varying degrees. 'Following an increasing North to South gradient, European ancestry was the most prevalent in all urban populations (with values up to 74%). The populations in the North consisted of a significant proportion of Native American ancestry that was about two times higher than the African contribution. Conversely, in the Northeast, Center-West and Southeast, African ancestry was the second most prevalent. At an intrapopulation level, all urban populations were highly admixed, and most of the variation in ancestry proportions was observed between individuals within each population rather than among population'.
A 2011 autosomal DNA study, with nearly 1000 samples from all over the country ("whites", "pardos" and "blacks"), found out a major European contribution, followed by a high African contribution and an important Native American component. "In all regions studied, the European ancestry was predominant, with proportions ranging from 60.6% in the Northeast to 77.7% in the South". The 2011 autosomal study samples came from blood donors (the lowest classes constitute the great majority of blood donors in Brazil ), and also public health institutions personnel and health students. The study showed that Brazilians from different regions are more homogenous than previously thought by some based on the census alone. "Brazilian homogeneity is, therefore, a lot greater between Brazilian regions than within Brazilians region".
|Northeast of Brazil||60,10%||29,30%||8,90%|
According to an autosomal DNA study from 2010, "a new portrayal of each ethnicity contribution to the DNA of Brazilians, obtained with samples from the five regions of the country, has indicated that, on average, European ancestors are responsible for nearly 80% of the genetic heritage of the population. The variation between the regions is small, with the possible exception of the South, where the European contribution reaches nearly 90%. The results, published by the scientific magazine American Journal of Human Biology by a team of the Catholic University of Brasília, show that, in Brazil, physical indicators such as skin colour, colour of the eyes and colour of the hair have little to do with the genetic ancestry of each person, which has been shown in previous studies (regardless of census classification). "Ancestry informative SNPs can be useful to estimate individual and population biogeographical ancestry. Brazilian population is characterized by a genetic background of three parental populations (European, African, and Brazilian Native Amerindians) with a wide degree and diverse patterns of admixture. In this work we analyzed the information content of 28 ancestry-informative SNPs into multiplexed panels using three parental population sources (African, Amerindian, and European) to infer the genetic admixture in an urban sample of the five Brazilian geopolitical regions. The SNPs assigned apart the parental populations from each other and thus can be applied for ancestry estimation in a three hybrid admixed population. Data was used to infer genetic ancestry in Brazilians with an admixture model. Pairwise estimates of F(st) among the five Brazilian geopolitical regions suggested little genetic differentiation only between the South and the remaining regions. Estimates of ancestry results are consistent with the heterogeneous genetic profile of Brazilian population, with a major contribution of European ancestry (0.771) followed by African (0.143) and Amerindian contributions (0.085). The described multiplexed SNP panels can be useful tool for bioanthropological studies but it can be mainly valuable to control for spurious results in genetic association studies in admixed populations". It is important to note that "the samples came from free of charge paternity test takers, thus as the researchers made it explicit: "the paternity tests were free of charge, the population samples involved people of variable socioeconomic strata, although likely to be leaning slightly towards the "pardo" group".
An autosomal DNA study from 2009 found a similar profile "all the Brazilian samples (regions) lie more closely to the European group than to the African populations or to the Mestizos from Mexico".
According to another autosomal DNA study from 2008, by the University of Brasília (UnB), European ancestry dominates in the whole of Brazil (in all regions), accounting for 65,90% of heritage of the population, followed by the African contribution (24,80%) and the Native American (9,3%).
- African Americans – There are an estimated 40 million people of Black African descent in the United States.
- Afro-Latin American – There are an estimated 100 million people of African descent living in Latin America, making up 45% of Brazil's population, if including multiracial pardo Brazilians. Many also have European and Native American ancestry, and are known as pardo, or mixed race. (Brazilian "blacks" are mixed to a significant degree). There are also sizeable African-descended populations in Cuba, Haiti, Colombia and Dominican Republic, often with ancestry of other major ethnic groups.
- The population in the Caribbean is approximately 23 million. Significant numbers of African-descended people include Haiti – 8 million, Dominican Republic – 7.9 million, and Jamaica – 2.7 million,
The archipelagos and islands of the Caribbean were the first sites of African dispersal in the western Atlantic during the post-Columbian era. Specifically, in 1492, Pedro Alonso Niño, a black Spanish seafarer, piloted one of Columbus's ships. He returned in 1499, but did not settle. In the early 16th-Century, more Africans began to enter the population of the Spanish Caribbean colonies, sometimes as freedmen, but most often as enslaved servants and workers. Demand for African labour increased in the Caribbean because of the massive deaths among the Taino and other indigenous populations, resulting primarily from Eurasian infectious diseases to which they had no immunity, as well as conflict with the Spanish, and harsh working conditions. By the mid-16th century, slave trade from Africa to the Caribbean was so profitable that the Englishmen Francis Drake and John Hawkins engaged in piracy and violated Spanish colonial laws, in order to forcibly transport approximately 1500 enslaved people from Sierra Leone to Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic).
During the 17th and 18th centuries, European colonialism in the Caribbean became increasingly reliant on plantation slavery, so that, by the end of the 18th century, on many islands, enslaved Afro-Caribbeans far outnumbered their European masters. A total of 1,840,000 slaves arrived at other British colonies, chiefly the West Indies in the Caribbean.
Beginning in the late eighteenth century, harsh conditions, constant inter-imperial warfare, and growing human rights goals resulted in the Haitian Revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, led by Toussaint L'Ouverture and Jean Jacques Dessalines. In 1804, Haiti, with what had been an overwhelmingly black slave population and leadership, became the second nation in the Americas to win independence from a European state and create a republic. Continuous waves of rebellion, such as the Baptist War led by Sam Sharpe in Jamaica, created the conditions for the incremental abolition of slavery in the region, with Great Britain abolishing it in 1838. Cuba (under the Spanish Crown) was the last island to emancipate its slaves.
During the 20th century, Afro-Caribbean people began to assert their cultural, economic and political rights on the world stage. The Jamaican Marcus Garvey formed the UNIA movement in the U.S., continuing with Aimé Césaire's négritude movement, which was intended to create a pan-African movement across national lines. From the 1960s, the former slave populations in the Caribbean began to win their independence from British colonial rule. They were pre-eminent in creating new cultural forms such as calypso, reggae music, and rastafarianism within the Caribbean. Beyond the region, a new Afro-Caribbean diaspora, including such figures as Stokely Carmichael and DJ Kool Herc in the United States, was influential in the creation of the black power and Hip Hop movements. Influential political theorists such as Walter Rodney, Frantz Fanon and Stuart Hall contributed to anti-colonial theory and movements in Africa, as well as cultural developments in Europe.
Several migration waves to the Americas, as well as relocations within the Americas, have brought people of African descent to North America. According to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the first African populations came to North America in the 16th century via Mexico and the Caribbean to the Spanish colonies of Florida, Texas and other parts of the South. Out of the 12 million people from Africa who were shipped to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade, 645,000 were shipped to the British colonies on the North American mainland and the United States. In 2000, African Americans comprised 12.1 percent of the total population in the United States, constituting the largest racial minority group. The African-American population is concentrated in the southern states and urban areas.
In the establishment of the African diaspora, the transatlantic slave trade is often considered the defining element, but people of African descent have engaged in eleven other migration movements involving North America since the 16th century, many being voluntary migrations, although undertaken in exploitative and hostile environments.
In the 1860s, people from sub-Saharan Africa, mainly from West Africa and the Cape Verde Islands, started to arrive in a voluntary immigration wave to seek employment as whalers in Massachusetts. This migration continued until restrictive laws were enacted in 1921 that in effect closed the door on non-Europeans. By that time, men of African ancestry were already a majority in New England’s whaling industry, with African Americans working as sailors, blacksmiths, shipbuilders, officers, and owners. The internationalism of whaling crews, including the character Daggoo, an African harpooneer, is recorded in the 1851 novel Moby Dick. They eventually took their trade to California.
Today 1.7 million people in the United States are descended from voluntary immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, most of whom arrived in the late twentieth century. African immigrants represent 6 percent of all immigrants to the United States and almost 5 percent of the African-American community nationwide. About 57 percent immigrated between 1990 and 2000. Immigrants born in Africa constitute 1.6 percent of the black population. People of the African immigrant diaspora are the most educated population group in the United States — 50 percent have bachelor's or advanced degrees, compared to 23 percent of native-born Americans. The largest African immigrant communities in the United States are in New York, followed by California, Texas, and Maryland.
The states with the highest percentages of people of African descent are Mississippi (36.3%), and Louisiana (32.5%). While not a state, the District of Columbia is 60.0% black. Recent African immigrants represent a minority of blacks in these three jurisdictions. The U.S. Bureau of the Census categorizes the population by race based on self-identification. The census surveys have no provision for a "multiracial" or "biracial" self-identity, but since 2000, respondents may check off more than one box and claim multiple ethnicity that way.
Much of the earliest black presence in Canada came from the newly independent United States (US) after the American Revolution; the British resettled African Americans (known as Black Loyalists) primarily in Nova Scotia. These were primarily former slaves who had escaped to British lines for promised freedom during the Revolution.
Later during the antebellum years, other individual African Americans escaped to Canada, mostly to locations in Southwestern Ontario, via the Underground Railroad, a system supported by both blacks and whites to assist fugitive slaves. After achieving independence, northern states in the US had begun to abolish slavery as early as 1793, but slavery was not abolished in the South until 1865, following the American Civil War.
Black immigration to Canada of the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries came primarily from the Caribbean, in such numbers that fully 70 per cent of all blacks now in Canada are of Caribbean origin. As a result of the prominence of Caribbean immigration, the term "African Canadian", while sometimes used to refer to the minority of Canadian blacks who have direct African or African-American heritage, is not normally used to denote black Canadians. Blacks of Caribbean origin are usually denoted as "West Indian Canadian", "Caribbean Canadian" or more rarely "Afro-Caribbean Canadian", but there remains no widely used alternative to "Black Canadian" which is considered inclusive of the African, Afro-Caribbean, and African-American black communities in Canada.
At an intermediate level, in Latin America and in the former plantations in and around the Indian Ocean, descendants of enslaved people are a bit harder to define because many people are mixed in demographic proportion to the original slave population. In places that imported relatively few slaves (like Argentina or Chile), few if any are considered "black" today. In places that imported many enslaved people (like Brazil or Dominican Republic), the number is larger, though most identify themselves as being of mixed, rather than strictly African, ancestry.
In Peru, the African population was very mixed with the other white, Indian and mestizo population; so someone is identified as negro if he or she has visible African features. Some mestizos and whites have a degree of African admixture.
In Colombia, the African slaves were first brought to work in the gold mines of the Department of Antioquia. After this was no longer a profitable business, these slaves slowly moved to the Pacific coast, where they have remained unmixed with the white or Indian population until today. The whole Department of Chocó remains a black area. Mixture with white population happened mainly in the Caribbean coast, which is a mestizo area until today. There was also a greater mixture in the south-western departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca. In these mestizo areas the African culture has had a great influence.
Some European countries make it illegal to conduct censuses on the basis of skin colour or race (e.g. France), but some others do query along racial lines (e.g. the UK). Of 42 countries surveyed by a European Commission against Racism and Intolerance study in 2007, it was found that 29 collected official statistics on country of birth, 37 on citizenship, 24 on religion, 26 on language, 6 on country of birth of parents, and 22 on nationality or ethnicity.
Estimates of 2 to 3 million of African descent, although one quarter of the Afro-French or French African population live in overseas territories. This number is difficult to estimate because the French census does not use race as a category for ideological reasons.
There are an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million immigrants from Africa in Italy, with only a minority of Sub-Saharan Africans. Most of the latter come from West African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Côte d'Ivoire.
There are an estimated 500,000 black people in the Dutch Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. They mainly live in the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao and Saint Martin, the latter of which is also partly French-controlled. Many Afro-Dutch people reside in the Netherlands.
As of 2005, there were approximately 500,000 Afro-Germans (not including those of mixed ethnicity). This number is difficult to estimate because the German census does not use race as a category.
The first blacks in Russia were the result of the slave trade of the Ottoman Empire and their descendants still live on the coasts of the Black Sea. Czar Peter the Great was advised by his friend Lefort to bring in Africans to Russia for hard labor. Alexander Pushkin's great grandfather was the African princeling Abram Petrovich Gannibal, who became Peter's protégé, was educated as a military engineer in France, and eventually became general-en-chef, responsible for the building of sea forts and canals in Russia.
During the 1930s fifteen Black American families moved to the Soviet Union as agricultural experts. As African states became independent in the 1960s, the Soviet Union offered their citizens the chance to study in Russia; over 40 years, 400,000 African students came, and many settled there.
Some blacks of unknown origin once inhabited southern Abkhazia; today, they are assimilated into the Abkhaz population.
Beginning several centuries ago, a number of sub-Saharan Africans, usually via Zanzibar and from places like Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan, were brought by Turkish slave traders during the Ottoman Empire to plantations around Dalaman, Menderes and Gediz valleys, Manavgat, and Çukurova.
Indian and Pacific Oceans
There are a number of communities in South Asia that are descended from African slaves, traders or soldiers. These communities are the Siddi, Sheedi, Makrani and Sri Lanka Kaffirs. In some cases, they became very prominent, such as Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut, Hoshu Sheedi or the rulers of Janjira State. The Mauritian creole people are the descendants of African slaves similar to those in the Americas.
Some Pan-Africanists also consider other peoples as diasporic African peoples. These groups include, among others, Negritos, such as in the case of the peoples of the Malay Peninsula (Orang Asli); New Guinea (Papuans); Andamanese; certain peoples of the Indian subcontinent, and the aboriginal peoples of Melanesia and Micronesia. Most of these claims are rejected by mainstream ethnologists as pseudoscience and pseudoanthropology, as part of ideologically motivated Afrocentrist irredentism, touted primarily among some extremist elements in the United States who do not reflect on the mainstream African-American community. Mainstream anthropologists determine that the Andamanese and others are part of a network of Proto-Australoid and Paleo Mediterranean ethnic groups present in South Asia that trace their genetic ancestry to a migratory sequence that culminated in the Australian aboriginals rather than from African peoples directly.
- List of topics related to the African diaspora
- African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter
- Afro-Anglo American
- Afro-Latin American
- Afro-Hispanic people
- Theory of the recent African origin of modern humans
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It is now estimated that 11,863,000 slaves were shipped across the Atlantic. [Note in original: Paul E. Lovejoy, "The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa: A Review of the Literature," in Journal of African History 30 (1989), p. 368.] ... It is widely conceded that further revisions are more likely to be upward than downward.
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- 1/4 of the French African population comes from the Caribbean islands. in French
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- Genetic testing has shown the Andamani to belong to the Y-Chromosome Haplogroup D-M174, which is in common with Australian Aboriginals and the Ainu people of Japan rather than the actual African diaspora, 
- Okpewho, Isidore; Nzegwu, Nkiru (2009). The New African Diaspora. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-35337-5.
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- Conyers, Jr, James L (2009). Racial Structure and Radical Politics in the African Diaspora. London: Transaction. ISBN 1-4128-1045-0.
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- The History of Black People in Britain
- "Negrito and Negrillo", by M. Stewart
- "Museum of the African Diaspora," Online exhibits and other resources from the San Francisco-based museum.
- The African Diaspora Policy Centre (ADPC)