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The First Wave of Trinidadians and Tobagonians in America
Trinidadian and Tobagonian immigration to the United States, which dates back to the seventeenth century, was spasmodic and is best studied in relation to the major waves of Caribbean immigration. The first documented account of black immigration to the United States from the Caribbean dates back to 1619, when a small group of voluntary indentured workers arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, on a Dutch frigate. The immigrants worked as free people until 1629 when a Portuguese vessel arrived with the first shipload of blacks captured off the west coast of Africa. In the 1640s Virginia and other states began instituting laws that took away the freedom of blacks and redefined them as chattel, or personal property. Trinidad, like many other islands in the British West Indies, served as a clearinghouse for slaves en route to North America. The region also acted as a "seasoning camp" where newly arrived blacks were "broken-in" psychologically and physically to a life of slavery, as well as a place where they acquired biological resistance to deadly European diseases.
From 1966 to 1970, 23,367 Trinidadian and Tobagonian immigrants, primarily from the educated elite and rural poor classes, legally migrated to the United States. From 1971 to 1975, the figure climbed to 33,278. It dropped to 28,498 from 1976 to 1980, and only half that amount between 1981 and 1984, when the Reagan administration began placing greater restrictions on U.S. immigration policy. Less than 2,300 Trinidadian and Tobagonian immigrants arrived in 1984 and that number scarcely increased during President Reagan's second term of office. A few European-Trinidadians migrated during the latter half of the twentieth century, primarily because they were losing their grip on political power in the Republic with the rise of nationalism and independence. The majority of those immigrants came to the United States because Britain had restricted immigration from the Commonwealth islands to the British Isles. A larger number migrated in the late 1980s when oil prices fell, sending the Republic into a deep recession. Trinidadians and Tobagonians are now the second largest group of English-speaking West Indian immigrants in the United States.
US communities with high percentages of people of Trinidadian and Tobagonian ancestry
The top US communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Trinidadian-Tobagonian ancestry are: