Portal:African American

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African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group of Americans with total or partial ancestry from any of the black racial groups of Africa. The term typically refers to descendants of enslaved black people who are from the United States. As a compound adjective, the term is usually hyphenated as African-American.

Black and African Americans constitute the third largest racial and ethnic group in the United States (after White Americans and Hispanic and Latino Americans). Most African Americans are descendants of enslaved peoples within the boundaries of the present United States. On average, African Americans are of West/Central African and European descent, and some also have Native American ancestry. According to US Census Bureau data, African immigrants generally do not self-identify as African American. The overwhelming majority of African immigrants identify instead with their own respective ethnicities (~95%). Immigrants from some Caribbean, Central American and South American nations and their descendants may or may not also self-identify with the term.

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The Great Migration was the movement of 1.75 million African Americans out of the Southern United States to the North, Midwest and West from 1910 to 1930. Precise estimates of the number of migrants depend on the time frame. African Americans migrated to escape racism and seek employment opportunities in industrial cities. Some historians differentiate between the First Great Migration (1910–40), numbering about 1.6 million migrants, and the Second Great Migration, from 1940 to 1970. In the Second Migration, 5 million or more people relocated, with the migrants moving to more new destinations. Many moved from Texas and Louisiana to California where there were jobs in the defense industry. From 1965–70, 14 states of the South, especially Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, contributed to a large net migration of blacks to the other three Census-designated regions of the United States.

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Barack Obama taking the oath of office on January 20, 2009 at the U.S. Capitol.
Credit: US government photo, 2009
Barack Obama, first African American President of the United States, taking the oath of office on January 20, 2009 at the U.S. Capitol.

See also: List of African-American firsts


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We deem it a settled point that the destiny of the colored man is bound up with that of the white people of this country. ... We are here, and here we are likely to be. To imagine that we shall ever be eradicated is absurd and ridiculous. We can be remodified, changed, assimilated, but never extinguished. We repeat, therefore, that we are here; and that this is our country; and the question for the philosophers and statesmen of the land ought to be, What principles should dictate the policy of the action toward us? We shall neither die out, nor be driven out; but shall go with this people, either as a testimony against them, or as an evidence in their favor throughout their generations.
Frederick Douglass (c.1818–1895),
Essay in North Star (Nov. 1858); as quoted in Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism (1992) by Derrick Bell, p. 40.

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Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, and he has become a human rights icon: King is recognized as a martyr by two Christian churches. A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.

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