West Indian American

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West Indian American
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Total population

West Indian American (except Hispanic groups):

0.83% of the US population
Regions with significant populations
New York, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Maryland, Washington D.C.

mainly American English, English-based creole languages (Jamaican Creole, Trinidadian English, Sranan Tongo, etc.), French-based creole languages, Papiamento

minority English, French, Dutch, Surinamese Hindi
Predominantly Christianity; other faiths.
Related ethnic groups
Africans, African Americans, Indians, English, French, Dutch, Caribbean Canadians

West Indian Americans or Caribbean Americans are Americans who are from, or have at least one ancestors from the lands of the Caribbean, including Caribbean South America. The 2,532,380 West Indian Americans accounted for 0.83% of the U.S. population in 2008.[1]


First Africans from the West Indies who arrived in the United States were slaves brought to South Carolina in the seventeenth century, primarily from Barbados and settled in South Carolina. These slaves, many them born in Africa, number among the first people of African origin imported to the British colonies of North America. Over time, Barbadian slaves would make up a significant part of the Black population in Virginia, mainly in the Virginia tidewater region of the Chesapeake Bay. The Caribbean slaves usually were seasoned mens, womans and children's. The number of enslaved Africans bought from the Caribbean increased in the 18th century, as the continental U.S. broadened its trading relations with others Caribbean islands. In this, Jamaica was becoming the main Caribbean island that sold slaves to South Carolina. The Caribbean slaves were imported to the British Indies colonies of North America in general manner (from Boston to South Carolina). The number of enslaved Africans imported from the Caribbean decreased after the New York City revolt of 1712, as many white colonists blamed it on slaves recently arrived from the Caribbean. The Caribbean slaves were deemed more rebellious. Nevertheless, between 1715 and 1741 most of the slaves of the colony remained being West Antilles (hailed from Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua). However, after the New York slave revolt of 1741, slaves imported from the Caribbean were severely curtailed, and most enslaved Africans were brought directly from Africa. Still, Africans enslaved in the Caribbean, such Denmark Vesey, believed to have been from Saint Domingue, organized a slave uprising in Charleston, South Carolina in 1822. Free people of African descent also influenced life in America. For example, there was Prince Hall of Barbados who established the Prince Hall Masons, and John B. Russwurm (from Jamaica), who was the third person of African descent to graduate college, who along with his African-American colleague, Samuel E. Cornish, in 1827, founded the Freedom's Journal, the first black newspaper.

Albeit, the Caribbean immigration to the United States was relatively small in the first years of nineteenth century, it grew of significant manner after the American Civil War, in 1865, which brought about the slavery of abolition. So, in the 19th century the U.S. attracted many Caribbean who excelled in various professions such as craftsmen, scholars, teachers, preachers, doctors, inventors, religious (the Barbadian Joseph Sandiford Atwell was the first black man after the Civil War to be ordained in the Episcopal Church), comedians (as the Antiguan Bert Williams), politics (as Robert Brown Elliott, U.S Congressman and Attorney General of South Carolina), poets, songwriters, and activists (as the brothers James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson and William Stanley Braithwaite). From the end of the nineteenth century up to 1905, most West Indian people emigrated to South Florida, New York and Massachusetts. However, shortly after, New York would become in the main US place of destination for the West Indian immigrants.

Later, in the 20th century, the increased of the poverty level in the Antilles (due to catastrophic decline in its sugar industry, its main production), the economic expansion of the US's economy brought a new wave of Caribbean immigration to United States at the turn of this century, with a large migratory wave mainly of people of the British West Indies. So, between 1899 and 1932, 108,000 people entered the United States from the Caribbean. In the first half of 20th century, emigrated at 12,250 Caribbeans per year to United States, falling off during the Great Depression. This migratory wave was followed by other between 1930 and 1965. Most of these Caribbean migrants landed in New York. So, the New York Amsterdam News indicated that, with the exception of Kingston (Jamaica), Harlem had already the largest West Indian community in the world. These news immigrants were more educated and skilled than the European immigrants who were established in United States at the same time and, even, that of the American-born population.

Almost 50,000 Caribbeans (both black and white people) settled in the country between 1941 and 1950. In 1943, thousands of West Indian migrant workers emigrated to the rural areas. Although Florida's sugar plantations were their primary settled place, they were shortly after imigrated to other states and sectors of the American economy. By Second World War's end, over 40,000 workers from the Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Vincent, Saint Lucia, and Dominica were working in the United States, over 16,000 of them worked in industrial sectors. Poor working conditions and the expiry of their employment contracts made many West Indians migrating to other places in the U.S. or return to Caribbean. In 1952, Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the McCarran-Walter Act, greatly restricted the number of Caribbean immigrants (and blacks people in general) who emigrated to the U.S., especially farmers. So, in this period, most of them emigrated to Britain (which received approximately 300,000 Caribbean immigrants between 1948 and 1966). In 1964 Lyndon Johnson established a new and more equitable immigration policy, the Hart-Celler Act, that impulsed other Caribbean immigration wave to United States. So, between 1981 and 1990 emigrated to United States 872,000 people from the Caribbean (of which over 208.000 were from Jamaica).

Today, is there is a fourth wave of Caribbean migration in United States.[2] So, the number of Caribbean immigrants grew up from 193,922 in 1960 to 2 million in 2009.[3]


Now, of over 2,000,000 of people of West Indians origin existing in USA in 2009, more than 72 percent them are foreign-born (4.6 percent of the black population in United States). Most of them are from Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago.[3] Most West Indians living in United States are established in New York City (more than half of Barbadian, Guyanese, Haitian, Jamaican, and Trinidadian immigrants live there, especially in Brooklyn and Queens districts) and Florida (in this state are mumerous the Jamaicans and Haitians people),[2] followed mainly by New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and California. Most Caribbeans in United States (excluding to the Hispanics) are English-speaking, Creole-speaking and French-speaking. Most of West Indians speak a Creole language (either of English, French or Dutch - Surinamese, Dutch West Indians - partially origin). In addition, the Caribbean people become naturalized US citizens at higher rates that the others immigrants groups.[3]

There is a large living among African Americans and African Caribbeans. So, they married one another, shared their cultures (including cuisine, music, and sartorial tastes), and joined one another in the various political movements to fight against racist and class oppression. Albeit, sometime wave of West Indian immigration brought strain between the two groups.

The postwar preference for female immigrant workers, Caribbean women have obtained American visas easier than their male counterparts. From the first years of Caribbean immigration to US, West Indian music, including soca, calypso, and reggae, has had a significant impact on American popular music. In addition, other aspects of Caribbean culture such as food and Carnival were incorporated to the mainstream America.[2]

West Indian American Ancestries (excluding Hispanic groups)[edit]

West Indian American in the 2000[4] - 2010 U.S. Census[5]
Group Population
Percent Population
Percent Percent change
Flag of Jamaica.svg Jamaican 763,513 % 965,355 %
Flag of Haiti.svg Haitian 548,199 % 881,488  %
Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg Trinidadian and Tobagonian 164,778 ("Trinidadian": 158, 993; "Tobagonian": 987; "Trinidad and Togago Islander": 4,798)  % 197,793 %
Flag of Guyana.svg Guyanese 162,456 % 214,315  %
Flag of Barbados.svg Barbadian 54,509  % 58,215  %
Flag of Belize.svg Belizean 37,688  % 54,925  %
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Dutch West Indian 35,359  % 54,377  %
Flag of the Bahamas.svg Bahamian 31,984  % 48,043  %
Flag of Grenada.svg Grenadian 25,924  % negligible (no data)  %
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg British West Indian
(including Bermudian, Cayman Islanders, Virgin British Islanders, Anguila Islanders, Montserrat Islanders, Turks and Caicos Islanders and Falkland Islanders)
15,400 (of them, 6,054 people hailed be of Bermudian origin, other 2,583 people hailed be of Montserrat Islands, 2,411 hailed be of "British West Indian" origin, and 2,148 people hailed be of Cayman origin. The rest of the community was formed by 832 people of "Anguilla" origin, 785 people of Virgin British Islands and 587 people of Turks and Caicos Islands.)  % 93, 847 (of them, 4, 738 Bermudians)  %
Flag of Antigua and Barbuda.svg Antiguan and Barbudan 15,199  % negligible (no data)  %
Flag of the United States Virgin Islands.svg Virgin Islander American 14,980 ("Virgin Islander American": 9,175; "St. Croix Islander": 3, 190; "St. Thomas Islander": 2,615)  % 11,731  %
Flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.svg Vincentian 13,547  % negligible (no data)  %
Flag of Saint Lucia.svg Saint Lucian 10,364  % negligible (no data)  %
Flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis.svg Kittian and Nevisian 6,368  % negligible (no data)  %
Flag of Dominica.svg Dominica 6,071  % negligible (no data) %
Flag of Suriname.svg Surinamese 2,833  % negligible (no data)  %
Flag of Aruba.svg Aruban 1,970  % negligible (no data)  %
Flag of France.svg French West Indian American 1,915 ("French West Indian": 941; "Guadaloupe": 974)  % negligible (no data)  %
Flag of France.svg French Guiana 1,128 ("Cayenne")  % negligible (no data)  %
Flag of Sint Maarten.svg Sint Marteen Islander 352  % negligible (no data) %
"West Indians" 147, 222  % 299,010  %
Other West Indians -  % 7,969  %
Total over 1,400,000  % over 2,000,000  %

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "United States - Selected Population Profile in the United States (West Indian (excluding Hispanic origin groups) (300-359))". 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  2. ^ a b c Caribbean Migration - AAME - In Motion: The African-American.
  3. ^ a b c US in Foco: Caribbean Immigrants in the United States. Posted by Kristen McCabe, from Migration Policy Institute, in April 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  4. ^ "Table 1. First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 
  5. ^ "Total ancestry categories tallied for people with one or more ancestry categories reported 2010 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 30 November 2012.