Romani Americans

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Romani people in the United States
Roma Americans
Romani Americans
Total population
est. 1,000,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, and Portland[2]
American English, Romani
Christianity, Romani mythology, Islam and others[3]

It is estimated that there are one million Romani people in the United States, occasionally known as American Gypsies. Though the Romani population in the United States has largely assimilated into American society, the largest concentrations are in Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and the Northeast as well as in cities such as Chicago and St. Louis.[1][4]

The largest wave of Romani immigrants came from the Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldavia region in the late 19th century following the abolition of Slavery in Romania in 1864.[5][6][7] Romani immigration to the United States has continued at a steady rate ever since, with an increase of Romani immigration occurring in the late 20th century following the Porajmos in Nazi Germany and it's occupied European territories and then the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe.[1]

The size of the Romani American population and the absence of a historical and cultural presence, such as the Romani have in Europe, make Americans largely unaware of the existence of the Romani as a people.[1] The term's lack of significance within the United States prevents many Romani from using the term around non-Romani: identifying themselves by nationality rather than heritage.[8]



The Romani people originate from Northern India,[9][10][11][12][13][14] presumably from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan[13][14] and Punjab.[13]

The linguistic evidence has indisputably shown that roots of Romani language lie in India: the language has grammatical characteristics of Indian languages and shares with them a big part of the basic lexicon, for example, body parts or daily routines.[15]

More exactly, Romani shares the basic lexicon with Hindi and Punjabi. It shares many phonetic features with Marwari, while its grammar is closest to Bengali.[16]

Genetic findings in 2012 suggest the Romani originated in northwestern India and migrated as a group.[10][11][17] According to a genetic study in 2012, the ancestors of present scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of northern India, traditionally referred to collectively as the Ḍoma, are the likely ancestral populations of modern European Roma.[18]

In February 2016, during the International Roma Conference, the Indian Minister of External Affairs stated that the people of the Roma community were children of India. The conference ended with a recommendation to the Government of India to recognize the Roma community spread across 30 countries as a part of the Indian diaspora.[19]

Migration to the US[edit]

An encampment of the Roma people on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. The photographed group faced eviction from the Portland Police (1905).

Romani slaves were first shipped to the Americas with Columbus in 1498.[20] Spain sent Romani slaves to their Louisiana colony between 1762 and 1800.[21] The Romanichal, the first Romani group to arrive in North America in large numbers, moved to America from Britain around 1850. Eastern European Romani, the ancestors of most of the Romani population in the United States today, began immigrating to the United States on a large scale over the latter half of the 19th century after abolition of Slavery in Romania. Other countries the Romani came from during this period are Italy, Greece and Turkey.[22] England and Scotland had shipped Romani slaves to Virginia.[23]

That wave of Romani immigration comprised Romani-speaking peoples like the Kalderash, Machvaya, Lovari and Churari, and ethnically Romani groups that had integrated more within the Central and Eastern European societies, such as the Boyash (Ludari) of Romania and the Bashalde of Slovakia.[24] Romani immigration, like all Central and Eastern European migration, was severely limited during the Soviet era in Central and Eastern Europe but picked up again in the 1990s after the fall of the Eastern Bloc. The Kalderash primarily came from Austria-Hungary, Russia and Serbia.[25]


  • Ludar: Hailing from North of the Apuseni Mountains, located in Transylvania, Hungary, and the Banat, the Ludari, also known as Rudari, Boyash, or Zlătari, are a subculture of Romani who arrived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[26]
  • Hungarian-Slovak Romani: The Romani of Northern Hungary largely settled in industrial cities of the Northern United States near the turn of the century. Among Romani from these areas were Olah, Romungre, and Bashalde immigrants. They were noted for their musical traditions and popularized Romani music in the United States by performing in cafes, night clubs and restaurants. Their prevalence in show business made Hungarian-Slovak Romani the most visible of the Romani groups arriving in America at the turn of the century and helped to shape the modern American idea of a Romani.[26] The Bashalde reside principally in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Chicago and Las Vegas.[27]
  • Romanichal: The ancestral home of the Romanichals is the British Isles. Members of this group are found across the U.S., with concentrations in Arkansas, Texas and the Southeast.
  • Black Dutch (genealogy): Sinte Romani from Germany, whom de Wendler-Funaro refers to as Chikkeners (Pennsylvania German, from the German Zigeuner), sometimes refer to themselves as "Black Dutch." They are few in number and claim to have largely assimilated into Romnichel culture. They are represented in de Wendler-Funaro's photographs by a few portraits of one old man and briefly referred to in the manuscript "In Search of the Last Caravan."[24]
  • Machvaya: The Machwaya came from Mačva in Serbia. Many have settled in California.[28]
  • Xoraxane (Muslim Roma) from former Yugoslavia went to USA, settled mostly in New York,[29][30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Webley, Kayla (October 13, 2010). "Hounded in Europe, Roma in the U.S. Keep a Low Profile". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on October 19, 2010.
  3. ^ "Gypsy Americans".
  4. ^ Berry, Lynn (February 19, 1995). "Business - Gypsies Trying To Change Stereotyped Image -- Some Practice Their Ancient Culture Secretly". Seattle Times.
  5. ^ "Roma slavery in Romania - a history".
  6. ^ Wallachia and Moldavia
  7. ^ Beck, Sam (1989). "The Origins of Gypsy Slavery in Romania". Dialectical Anthropology. 14 (1): 53–61. doi:10.1007/BF00255926. JSTOR 29790296. S2CID 143205329.
  8. ^ Kates, Glenn; Gergely, Valer (April 7, 2011). "For Roma, Life in US Has Challenges: People commonly known as 'Gypsies' face stereotyping, discrimination". Voice of America.
  9. ^ Hancock, Ian F. (2005) [2002]. We are the Romani People. Univ of Hertfordshire Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-902806-19-8: ‘While a nine century removal from India has diluted Indian biological connection to the extent that for some Romani groups, it may be hardly representative today, Sarren (1976:72) concluded that we still remain together, genetically, Asian rather than European’{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  10. ^ a b Mendizabal, Isabel; et al. (December 6, 2012). "Reconstructing the Population History of European Romani from Genome-wide Data". Current Biology. 22 (24): 2342–9. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.10.039. PMID 23219723.
  11. ^ a b Sindya N. Bhanoo (December 11, 2012). "Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India". New York Times.
  12. ^ Current Biology.
  13. ^ a b c K. Meira Goldberg; Ninotchka Devorah Bennahum; Michelle Heffner Hayes (September 28, 2015). Flamenco on the Global Stage: Historical, Critical and Theoretical Perspectives. p. 50. ISBN 9780786494705. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Simon Broughton; Mark Ellingham; Richard Trillo (1999). World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Rough Guides. p. 147. ISBN 9781858286358. Retrieved April 28, 2016. Roma Rajastan Penjab.
  15. ^ Šebková, Hana; Žlnayová, Edita (1998), Nástin mluvnice slovenské romštiny (pro pedagogické účely) (PDF), Ústí nad Labem: Pedagogická fakulta Univerzity J. E. Purkyně v Ústí nad Labem, p. 4, ISBN 978-80-7044-205-0, archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016
  16. ^ Hübschmannová, Milena (1995). "Romaňi čhib – romština: Několik základních informací o romském jazyku". Bulletin Muzea Romské Kultury. Brno: Muzeum romské kultury (4/1995). Zatímco romská lexika je bližší hindštině, marvárštině, pandžábštině atd., v gramatické sféře nacházíme mnoho shod s východoindickým jazykem, s bengálštinou.
  17. ^ "5 Intriguing Facts About the Roma". Live Science. October 23, 2013.
  18. ^ Rai, N; Chaubey, G; Tamang, R; Pathak, AK; Singh, VK (2012), "The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations", PLOS ONE, 7 (11): e48477, Bibcode:2012PLoSO...748477R, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048477, PMC 3509117, PMID 23209554
  19. ^ "Can Romas be part of Indian diaspora?". February 29, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  20. ^ Peter Boyd-Bowman (ed.), Indice geobiográfico de cuarenta mil pobladores españoles de América en el siglo XVI, vol. 1: 1493–1519 (Bogota: Instituto Caro y Cuervo, 1964), 171.
  21. ^ The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery, Volume 1; Volume 7 By Junius P. Rodriguez
  22. ^ Ling, Huping (2008). Emerging Voices: Experiences of Underrepresented Asian Americans. ISBN 9780813543420.
  23. ^ We are the Romani People. p. 28.
  24. ^ a b "Gypsies in the United States". Migrations in History. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  25. ^ "The Roma in Romanian History". p. 125.
  26. ^ a b "Gypsy and Traveler Culture in America". Gypsy Lore Society.
  27. ^ Teaching Tolerance Magazine - Issues 15-21. p. 34.
  28. ^ Ethnic American Food Today: A Cultural Encyclopedia. p. 249.
  29. ^ Gypsy Law: Romani Legal Traditions and Culture.
  30. ^ "Xoraxane Roma".

Further reading[edit]

  • Gropper, Rena C., and Carol Miller. “Exploring New Worlds in American Romani Studies: Social and Cultural Attitudes among the American Macvaia.” Romani Studies 11, no. 2 (2001): 81–110.
  • Heimlich, Evan. "Romani Americans." in Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 4, Gale, 2014), pp. 1–13. Online
  • Marafioti, Oksana. American Gypsy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012).
  • Sinclair, Albert Thomas (1917). George Fraser Black (ed.). American Gypsies. New York Public Library. Retrieved April 24, 2014. New York Public Library.
  • Sinclair, Albert Thomas (1915). George Fraser Black (ed.). An American-Romani Vocabulary (reprint ed.). New York public library. Retrieved April 24, 2014. New York Public Library.
  • Sutherland, Anne. “The American Rom: A Case of Economic Adaptation.” in Gypsies, Tinkers and Other Travellers, edited by Farnham Rehfisch, (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975). pp 1–40.
  • Sutherland, Anne. Gypsies: The Hidden Americans (Tavistock Publications, 1975).
  • Sway, Marlene. Familiar Strangers: Gypsy Life in America (University of Illinois Press, 1988).

External links[edit]