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Congolese Americans

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Congolese Americans
Total population
5,488+ (2000 US Census)[1]
11,009 (2006–2009 US Census Bureau est.)[2]
Regions with significant populations
Texas (especially the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex followed by The Houston area,) North Carolina (epecially in the Charlotte area followed by the Raleigh area,) the Buffalo, NY Metropolitan Area, Iowa, Kentucky,[3] Wichita, Kansas, [4] Other communities to be found in New York City, Washington, D.C.–Baltimore area, Atlanta,[5] Tennessee,[6] Arizona,[7] Wisconsin
American English, French, Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba[8]
Related ethnic groups
African Americans

Congolese Americans (French: Congolo-Américains) are Americans descended from the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo, which consist of hundreds of ethnic groups.

In the 2000 U.S. Census, 3,886 people reported Congolese descent. Another 1,602 reported originating from Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire, and less than 300 people reported originating from the Republic of Congo.[1] Rose Mapendo, who suffered as a result of the war, helped 2,000 refugees to emigrate into the U.S. through the organization Mapendo International.[9] [10] In 2013, roughly 10,000 refugees from the DRC were living in the U.S.[11]


Like other Central/West African groups in the United States, the first Congolese arrived as enslaved people in the modern-day United States as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Congolese were most likely sold in Cabinda in modern-day Angola and were then imported to places such as Louisiana and South Carolina.[12] However, due to the difficulty of tracing specific ancestry through the Atlantic slave trade and the lack of records on specific geographic origins of slaves, very few descendants of enslaved Congolese today identify specifically as Congolese Americans.

In the 1960s, Congolese gradually began to voluntarily migrate to the U.S. for educational reasons. However, in the 1980s, the first large wave of Congolese immigrants came to the U.S. for educational purposes. Initially, most of them decided to return home when they finished their studies in the U.S. However, many of them chose to stay in the U.S. due to the worsening political and economic situation in the DRC. The First Congo War (1996-97) in the DRC drove many Congolese to leave their families at home to seek asylum in the U.S. as war refugees. Only a few families migrated to the U.S. together. Some refugees were Tutsi who sought refuge from the Rwandan genocide in the DRC before arriving in the U.S.[13]


The modern-day Republic of the Congo and the DRC were both colonized by Francophone powers, the former by France and the latter by Belgium. Thus, many Congolese speak French in addition to English and several Bantu languages. Immigrants from the DRC speak Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, Bembe, and Tshiluba.[8] However, recent immigrants are less likely to speak English than the better-educated Congolese migrants before them, and thus, have more difficulty adjusting to daily living in the U.S. Still, U.S. employers do not always accept the professional expertise and education that immigrants received in the Congo. Thus, many educated Congolese have been forced to work in unskilled and low-paying jobs such as dishwashing and taxi cab driving. Most Congolese are Christians.

A significant number of Congolese Americans reside in the Charlotte and Raleigh areas of North Carolina,[14] in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex in Texas (mainly in Arlington, Bedford, Dallas, Euless, Grand Prairie, Hurst, and Irving);[8] in the Cleveland and Columbus areas of Ohio; and in Iowa, where the Congolese community of DRC this growing due to sending refugees (although quantitatively reduced in the last years.)[15] There is also a growing population of Congolese in Portland, Maine[16] (with 1,379 self reporting as Congolese alone in Cumberland County as of 2020.)[17] Additionally, most of the refugees in Tallahassee, Florida, are from the Democratic Republic of Congo.[18]

Since 2001, many refugees from the DRC have resettled in the United States. In 2013, it was estimated that more than 10,000 refugees from the DRC live in the U.S.,[11] of which more than 3,000 arrived in the U.S. in 2010.[10] The U.S. had hoped to resettle tens of thousands more from the DRC over the next five years.[11] There is a growing Congolese refugee population in Memphis, Tennessee, and other cities in the state.[19] In Kentucky, thousands of Congolese have settled in Louisville and other cities.[20] In Bowling Green, Kentucky, Congolese refugees already compose a sizable proportion of the city.[21]

Texas has the highest number of immigrants from the Republic of the Congo at 6,230.[22] Immigrants from the Republic of Congo took up the largest share of a state's population in Kentucky at 0.041%.[23] As of 2023, the Top 10 cities with the most immigrants from the Republic of the Congo were as follows:[24]

City State Immigrants

from Congo

% of Immigrants

from Congo

Charlotte North Carolina 1,793 0.207%
Louisville Kentucky 942 0.149%
Raleigh North Carolina 910 0.197%
Dallas Texas 854 0.066%
Irving Texas 727 0.286%
Amarillo Texas 714 0.356%
Fort Worth Texas 693 0.076%
Houston Texas 655 0.029%
Abilene Texas 651 0.519%
Lexington Kentucky 632 0.197%

Texas has the highest number of immigrants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly known as Zaire, at 5,580.[25] Immigrants from the DRC took up the largest share of a state's population in Iowa at 0.12%.[26] As of 2023, the Top 10 cities with the most immigrants from the DRC were as follows:

City State Immigrants

from DRC

% of Immigrants

from DRC

Charlotte North Carolina 1,847 0.214%
Lexington Kentucky 1,373 0.427%
Nashville Tennessee 1,154 0.169%
Houston Texas 1,020 0.044%
Louisville Kentucky 997 0.158%
Waterloo Iowa 975 1.440%
Portland Maine 967 1.421%
Buffalo New York 874 0.317%
Phoenix Arizona 818 0.051%
Irving Texas 757 0.298%


Congolese Community of Chicago aims to facilitate the integration of people of Congolese descent into the American tapestry while running programs to educate others about Congolese culture.[27]

Congolese Community of North Carolina-Raleigh (COCOM-NC-Raleigh) provides educational opportunities for Congolese children and their families in North Carolina's Research Triangle.[28]

Congolese Women Association of New England provides immigration counseling, job training, ESL classes, and cultural practice workshops to Congolese women in New England.[29]

Other organizations include the Salem Gospel Ministries in the DC area, Congolese Community of Houston,[30] and Congolese Community of Northern California.[31]

Notable people[edit]

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Table 1. First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  2. ^ "CITIZENSHIP STATUS IN THE UNITED STATES: Total population in the United States. 2006-2010 American Community Survey Selected Population Tables". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-12. Retrieved 2013-12-06.
  3. ^ "Population Movements | Congolese Refugee Health Profile | Immigrant and Refugee Health | CDC". www.cdc.gov. February 26, 2019.
  4. ^ Wenzl, Polly (April 24, 2023). "Refugee from the Congo escapes violence to build life anew: 'Wichita is my home'". Wichita Beacon.
  5. ^ "Yearbook 2017 | Homeland Security". www.dhs.gov. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  6. ^ Butler, Chris (December 23, 2019). "Refugee Arrivals in Tennessee Increased 46 Percent Under Gov. Bill Lee in 2019, the Majority from High TB Burden Countries".
  7. ^ "As Fewer Refugees Come To Arizona, The Congolese Community Grows". Fronteras. July 10, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c CONGOLESE COMMUNITY IN NORTH TEXAS - Texas Baptists.
  9. ^ "CNN Living heroes". 2008-10-17. Retrieved 2010-05-10.
  10. ^ a b Fronteras: The changing America Desk. Congolese Immigrants Search For A Voice. Posted by Nick Blumberg in Tuesday, October 25, 201. Retrieved October 24, 2:55pm.
  11. ^ a b c Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  12. ^ Africans and Their Descendants in the Americas: Restoring the Links Using Historical Documents and Databases. Retrieved October 14, 2012, to 20:20 pm.
  13. ^ Encyclopedia of Chicago: Congolese in Chicago. Posted by Tracy Steffes. Retrieved September 4, 2012, to 2:06 pm.
  14. ^ "Immigrants from Congo in the United States by City | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
  15. ^ Durrie Bouscaren (16 August 2013). "Congolese refugee community to grow in Iowa". Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  16. ^ Taylor, Kate (23 June 2019). "Maine Needed New, Young Residents. African Migrants Began Arriving by the Dozens". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Bureau, US Census. "Detailed Races and Ethnicities in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2020 Census". Census.gov. Retrieved 2024-03-10.
  18. ^ Hassanein, Nada. "In 2018, Tallahassee resettled the highest number of refugees in Florida". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 2022-07-16.
  19. ^ In the Courts and in the Capitol, #RefugeesWelcome tnimmigrant.org
  20. ^ [url=https://www.kentuckyrefugees.org/refugees-in-kentucky/louisville/]
  21. ^ [url=https://www.kentuckyrefugees.org/refugees-in-kentucky/bowling-green/]
  22. ^ "Top 10 States | Immigrants from Congo | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
  23. ^ "Top 10 States | Percentage of Immigrants from Congo | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
  24. ^ "Immigrants from Congo in the United States by City | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
  25. ^ "Top 10 States | Immigrants from Zaire | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
  26. ^ "Top 10 States | Percentage of Immigrants from Zaire | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
  27. ^ "Congolese community of Chicago". Archived from the original on 7 June 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  28. ^ "Congolese Community of North Carolina-Raleigh Association".
  29. ^ "Congolese Americans: Finding a Home in New England". Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  30. ^ "THE CONGOLESE COMMUNITY OF HOUSTON (CCH), INC. Houston, TX Wysk Company Profile". Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  31. ^ Congolese Community of Northern California.

Further reading[edit]

  • Beebe, Craig. "Congolese Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2014), pp. 531–541. online

External links[edit]