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Akátá is a word believed to be derived from the Yoruba of Nigeria in West Africa. The term is used among Nigerians and other West Africans in the United States to refer to African Americans, similar to the terms oyibo and oyinbo that Nigerians use for whites.


Depending on intonation, the "Grammar and Dictionary of the Yoruba language," written in 1858, gives two definitions: Cat or jackals. In the book, the synonym for "wild oats" or akata is agbo, which also refers to a medicinal herb.[1]

Modern usage[edit]

It is unclear how the word became associated with black Americans. One speculation is that the first wave of Nigerian students in 1960s and 1970s United States, upon interacting with the Black Panther movement, referred to group members as akata, with the term eventually becoming shorthand for all African Americans.

Because of perceived tension between African immigrants and black Americans, the word is also perceived to be pejorative. The word was erroneously translated as "cotton picker" in the 1994 film Sugar Hill.


  1. ^ Thomas J. Bowen (1858). Grammar and dictionary of the Yoruba language. (Smithsonian contrib.to knowledge).

See also[edit]