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Total population
91.4% (80.3% black and 10.1% Afro-European) of Jamaica
Regions with significant populations
Throughout Jamaica
Jamaican Patois, Jamaican English
Mainly Christianity, with minorities of Irreligion, Rastafarism, Judaism
Afro-Jamaican religions
Rastafari, Convince, Jamaican Maroon religion, Kumina
Related ethnic groups
African Caribbean, British Jamaicans, Black Canadians, Jamaican Americans, Akan people, Igbo People

Afro-Jamaicans are Jamaicans of predominant African descent. They represent the largest ethnic group in the country.[1]

The ethnogenesis of the Black Jamaican people stemmed from the Atlantic slave trade of the 16th century, when enslaved Africans were transported as slaves to Jamaica and other parts of the Americas.[2] During the period of British rule, slaves brought into by Jamaica by African slave traders were primarily Akan, some of whom ran away and joined with Maroons and even took over as leaders.[3]


West Africans were enslaved in wars with other West African states and kidnapped by either African or European slavers. The most common means of enslaving an African was through abduction.[citation needed]


Based on slave ship records, enslaved Africans mostly came from the Akan people (notably those of the Asante Kotoko alliance of the 1720's: Asante, Bono, Wassa, Nzema and Ahanta) followed by Kongo people, Fon people, Ewe people, and to a lesser degree: Yoruba, Ibibio people and Igbo people. Akan (then called Coromantee) culture was the dominant African culture in Jamaica.[3]

Originally in earlier British colonization, the island before the 1750s was in fact mainly Akan imported. However, between 1663 and 1700, only six per cent of slave ships to Jamaica listed their origin as the Gold Coast, while between 1700 and 1720 that figure went up to 27 per cent. The number of Akan slaves arriving in Jamaica from Kormantin ports only increased in the early 18th century.[4] But due to frequent rebellions from the then known "Coromantee" that often joined the slave rebellion group known as the Jamaican Maroons, other groups were sent to Jamaica. The Akan population was still maintained, since they were the preference of British planters in Jamaica because they were "better workers", according to these planters. According to the Slave Voyages Archives, though the Igbo had the highest importation numbers, they were only imported to Montego Bay and St. Ann's Bay ports, while the Akan (mainly Gold Coast) were more dispersed across the island and were a majority imported to seven of 14 of the island's ports (each parish has one port).[5]

The majority of the house slaves were mulattoes. They were also Brown/Mulatto or mixed-race people at the time who had more privileges than the Black slaves and usually held higher-paying jobs and occupations.[6]


Atlantic slave trade[edit]

Region of embarkment, 1701–1800 Amount %
Bight of Biafra (Igbo, Ibibio) 31.9
Gold Coast (Asante/Fante Akan) 29.5
West-central Africa (Kongo, Mbundu) 15.2
Bight of Benin (Yoruba, Ewe, Fon, Allada and Mahi) 10.1
Windward Coast (Mandé, Kru) 4.8
Sierra Leone (Mende, Temne) 3.8
Southeast Africa (Macua, Malagasy) 0.1
(Unknown) 5.0[7]

Myal and Revival[edit]

Kumfu (from the word Akom the name of the Akan spiritual system) was documented as Myal and originally only found in books, while the term Kumfu is still used by Jamaican Maroons. The priest of Kumfu was called a Kumfu-man. In 18th-century Jamaica, only Akan gods were worshipped by Akan as well as by other enslaved Africans. The Akan god of creation, Nyankopong was given praise but not worshipped directly. They poured libation to Asase Ya, the goddess of the earth. But nowadays they are only observed by the Maroons who preserved a lot of the culture of 1700s Jamaica.[3]

"Myal" or Kumfu evolved into Revival, a syncretic Christian sect. Kumfu followers gravitated to the American Revival of 1800 Seventh Day Adventist movement because it observed Saturday as god's day of rest. This was a shared aboriginal belief of the Akan people as this too was the day that the Akan god, Nyame, rested after creating the earth. Jamaicans that were aware of their Ashanti past while wanting to keep hidden, mixed their Kumfu spirituality with the American Adventists to create Jamaican Revival in 1860. Revival has two sects: 60 order (or Zion Revival, the order of the heavens) and 61 order (or Pocomania, the order of the earth). 60 order worships God and spirits of air or the heavens on a Saturday and considers itself to be the more "clean" sect. 61 order more deals with spirits of the earth. This division of Kumfu clearly shows the dichotomy of Nyame and Asase Yaa's relationship, Nyame representing air and has his 60 order'; Asase Yaa having her 61 order of the earth. Also the Ashanti funerary/war colours: red and black have the same meaning in Revival of vengeance.[8] Other Ashanti elements include the use of swords and rings as means to guard the spirit from spiritual attack. The Asantehene, like the Mother Woman of Revival, has special two swords used to protect himself from witchcraft called an Akrafena or soul sword and a Bosomfena or spirit sword.[9][10]

John Canoe[edit]

A festival was dedicated to the heroism of the Akan king 'John Canoe' an Ahanta from Axim, Ghana in 1708. See John Canoe section.[citation needed]

Jamaican Patois[edit]

Jamaican Patois, known locally as Patwa, is an English creole language spoken primarily in Jamaica and the Jamaican diaspora. It is not to be confused with Jamaican English nor with the Rastafarian use of English. The language developed in the 17th century, when enslaved peoples from West and Central Africa blended their dialect and terms with the learned vernacular and dialectal forms of English spoken: British Englishes (including significant exposure to Scottish English) and Hiberno English. Jamaican Patwa is a post-creole speech continuum (a linguistic continuum) meaning that the variety of the language closest to the lexifier language (the acrolect) cannot be distinguished systematically from intermediate varieties (collectively referred to as the mesolect) nor even from the most divergent rural varieties (collectively referred to as the basilect). Jamaicans themselves usually refer to their use of English as patwa, a term without a precise linguistic definition.

Jamaican Patois contains many loanwords of African origin, a majority of those etymologically from Gold Coast region (particularly of the Asante-Twi dialect of the Akan language of Ghana).[11]


Most Jamaican proverbs are of Asante people, while some included other African proverbs.[12]

Genetic studies[edit]

Jamaican mtDNA[edit]

A DNA test study submitted to BMC Medicine in 2012 states that "....despite the historical evidence that an overwhelming majority of slaves were sent from the Bight of Biafra and West-central Africa near the end of the British slave trade, the mtDNA haplogroup profile of modern Jamaicans show a greater affinity with groups found in the present-day Gold Coast region Ghana....this is because Africans arriving from the Gold Coast may have thus found the acclimatization and acculturation process less stressful because of cultural and linguistic commonalities, leading ultimately to a greater chance of survivorship and a greater number of progeny."

More detailed results stated: "Using haplogroup distributions to calculate parental population contribution, the largest admixture coefficient was associated with the Gold Coast(0.477 ± 0.12 or 59.7% of the Jamaican population with a 2.7 chance of Pygmy and Sahelian mixture), suggesting that the people from this region may have been consistently prolific throughout the slave era on Jamaica. The diminutive admixture coefficients associated with the Bight of Biafra and West-central Africa (0.064 ± 0.05 and 0.089 ± 0.05, respectively) is striking considering the massive influx of individuals from these areas in the waning years of the British Slave trade. When excluding the pygmy groups, the contribution from the Bight of Biafra and West-central rise to their highest levels (0.095 ± 0.08 and 0.109 ± 0.06, respectively), though still far from a major contribution. When admixture coefficients were calculated by assessing shared haplotypes, the Gold Coast also had the largest contribution, though much less striking at 0.196, with a 95% confidence interval of 0.189 to 0.203. When haplotypes are allowed to differ by one base pair, the Jamaican matriline shows the greatest affinity with the Bight of Benin, though both Bight of Biafra and West-central Africa remain underrepresented. The results of the admixture analysis suggest the mtDNA haplogroup profile distribution of Jamaica more closely resembles that of aggregated populations from the modern-day Gold Coast region despite an increasing influx of individuals from both the Bight of Biafra and West-central Africa during the final years of trading enslaved Africans.[13]

The aforementioned results apply to subjects whom have been tested. Results also stated that black Jamaicans (that make up more than 90% of the population) on an average have 97.5% of African MtDNA and very little European or Asian ancestry could be found. Both ethnic and racial genetic results are based on a low sample of 390 Jamaican persons and limited regional representation within Jamaica.[13] As Afro-Jamaicans are not genetically homogeneous, the results for other subjects may yield different results.[14]

Jamaican Y-DNA[edit]

Pub Med results were also issued in the same year (2012): "Our results reveal that the studied population of Jamaica exhibit a predominantly South-Saharan paternal component, with haplogroups A1b-V152, A3-M32, B2-M182, E1a-M33, E1b1a-M2, E2b-M98, and R1b2-V88 comprising 66.7% of the Jamaican paternal gene pool. Yet, European derived chromosomes (i.e., haplogroups G2a*-P15, I-M258, R1b1b-M269, and T-M184) were detected at commensurate levels in Jamaica (10.1%), whereas Y-haplogroups indicative of Chinese [O-M175 (3.8%)] and Indian [H-M69 (0.6%) and L-M20 (0.6%)] ancestry were restricted to Jamaica.[15] African paternal DNA 66.7% European paternal DNA 10.9% Chinese paternal DNA 3.8% Indian paternal DNA 1.2%

Jamaican autosomal DNA[edit]

The gene pool of Jamaica is about 80.3% Sub-Saharan African, 10% European, and 5.7% East Asian;[16] according to a 2010 autosomal genealogical DNA testing.

Notable Afro-Jamaicans[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jamaica Population 2021 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs)". World Population Review. Archived from the original on 22 December 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  2. ^ Castilla, Julian de (1924). "The English conquest of Jamaica". Camden. Third Series. 34: 32. doi:10.1017/S2042171000006932.
  3. ^ a b c Gardner, William James (1909). History of Jamaica, From Its Discovery To The Year 1872. Appleton & Company. p. 184. ISBN 978-0415760997.
  4. ^ Siva, Michael, After the Treaties: A Social, Economic and Demographic History of Maroon Society in Jamaica, 1739–1842, PhD dissertation (Southampton: Southampton University, 2018), p. 27.
  5. ^ "Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade". Slavevoyages.org. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  6. ^ Tortello, Rebecca (3 February 2004). "The Arrival of the Africans". Jamaica Gleaner. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via Pieces of the Past.
  7. ^ Rucker, Walter C. (2006). The river flows on: Black resistance, culture, and identity formation in early America. LSU Press. p. 126. ISBN 0-8071-3109-1.
  8. ^ Allenye, Mervyn C. (2004). Jamaican Folk Medicine: A Source Of Healing. University of the West Indies Press. p. 36. ISBN 9789766401238.
  9. ^ Cooke, Mel (19 September 2010). "Running to 'Mother' - Thugs seek guard rings and divine protection". Jamaica Gleaner.
  10. ^ "British Museum - I.v". Britishmuseum.org. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  11. ^ Cassidy, F. G. (October 1966), "Multiple etymologies in Jamaican Creole". American Speech, Vol. 41, No. 3, 211–215.
  12. ^ "Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica: CHAPTER I". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  13. ^ a b Deason, Michael L.; Salas, Antonio; Newman, Simon P.; Macaulay, Vincent A.; Morrison, Errol Y. st A.; Pitsiladis, Yannis P. (23 February 2012). "Interdisciplinary approach to the demography of Jamaica". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 12 (1): 24. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-24. PMC 3299582. PMID 22360861.
  14. ^ Salas, Antonio; Richards, Martin; Lareu, María-Victoria; Scozzari, Rosaria; Coppa, Alfredo; Torroni, Antonio; MacAulay, Vincent; Carracedo, Ángel (2004). "The African Diaspora: Mitochondrial DNA and the Atlantic Slave Trade". The American Journal of Human Genetics. 74 (3): 454–465. doi:10.1086/382194. PMC 1182259. PMID 14872407.
  15. ^ Simms, Tanya M.; Wright, Marisil R.; Hernandez, Michelle; Perez, Omar A.; Ramirez, Evelyn C.; Martinez, Emanuel; Herrera, Rene J. (August 2012). "Y-chromosomal diversity in Haiti and Jamaica: contrasting levels of sex-biased gene flow". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 148 (4): 618–31. doi:10.1002/ajpa.22090. PMID 22576450.
  16. ^ Simms, Tanya M.; Rodriguez, Carol E.; Rodriguez, Rosa; Herrera, Rene J. (2010). "The Genetic Structure of Populations from Haiti and Jamaica Reflect Divergent Demographic Histories". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 142 (1): 49–66. doi:10.1002/ajpa.21194. PMID 19918989. Retrieved 22 September 2021.