West Indian Americans
0.9% of the total U.S. population (2016)
|Regions with significant populations|
|New York City, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Maryland, Washington D.C.|
|Mainly: English-based creole languages (Jamaican Creole, Jamaican Patois, Trinidadian Creole, Tobagonian Creole, Bajan Creole, Sranan Tongo, Virgin Islands Creole, etc.), French, French-based creole languages (Haitian Creole, Antillean Creole), English, Trinidadian English, Spanish, Papiamento|
Minority: Dutch, Caribbean Hindustani
|Predominantly: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Yoruba, Amerindian Religion, Rastafari, Traditional African Religion, Afro-American religions Minority: Buddhism, Judaism, Jainism, Bahá'í|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Taíno, Arawak, African Americans, Indo-Caribbean American, English, French, Dutch, German, Asian, Caribbean Canadians|
West Indian Americans or Caribbean Americans are Americans who can trace their recent ancestry to the Caribbean, unless they are of native descent. As of 2016, about 3,019,686 people residing in the United States — 0.934% of the total US population — have West Indian ancestry.
The Caribbean is the source of the United States' earliest and largest Black immigrant group and the primary source of growth of the Black population in the U.S. The region has exported more of its people than any other region of the world since the abolition of slavery in 1834. While the largest Caribbean immigrant sources to the U.S. are Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti, U.S. citizen migrants also come from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- 1 Caribbean immigration to the United States
- 2 Demography
- 3 Contributions to American culture
- 4 National Caribbean American Heritage Month
- 5 See also
- 6 Further reading
- 7 References
Caribbean immigration to the United States
17th to mid-19th century
The history of African-Caribbean immigration in the United States can be traced back to slavery when the British colonies in the Americas shifted enslaved Africans to different territories, as the demands of capital and plantation economy dictated.
First Africans from the West Indies who arrived in the United States were slaves brought to South Carolina in the 17th century. These slaves, many of whom were born in Africa, number among the first people of African origin imported to the British colonies of North America. Over time, Barbadian slaves would make up a significant part of the Black population in Virginia, mainly in the Virginia tidewater region of the Chesapeake Bay. The number of enslaved Africans bought from the Caribbean increased in the 18th century, as the Thirteen Colonies (the future continental U.S.) broadened its trade relations with other Caribbean islands.
The number of enslaved Africans imported from the Caribbean decreased after the New York Slave Revolt of 1712, as many white colonists blamed the incident on slaves recently arrived from the Caribbean. Nevertheless, between 1715 and 1741 most of the slaves of the colony remained from the West Antilles (hailing from Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua). However, after the New York slave revolt of 1741, slaves imported from the Caribbean were severely curtailed, and most enslaved Africans were brought directly from Africa.
Although Caribbean immigration to the United States was relatively small in the first years of 19th century, it grew significantly after the end of the American Civil War in 1865, which brought about the abolition of slavery. In the 19th century, the U.S. attracted many Caribbeans who excelled in various professions such as craftsmen, scholars, teachers, preachers, doctors, inventors, religious (the Barbadian Joseph Sandiford Atwell was the first black man after the Civil War to be ordained in the Episcopal Church), comedians (as the Bahamian Bert Williams), politics (as Robert Brown Elliott, U.S Congressman and Attorney General of South Carolina), poets, songwriters, and activists (as the brothers James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson). From the end of the 19th century up to 1905, most West Indian people emigrated to South Florida, New York and Massachusetts. However, shortly after, New York would become the main destination for the West Indian immigrants.
World War II through the 21st century
Immigration from the region to the U.S. gained momentum during World War II when 50,000 black and white Caribbeans arrived in the 1940s, taking advantage of the rapidly expanding war economy and post-war economic growth. Thousands came as legal migrant workers brought to work in agriculture, primarily on Florida's sugar plantations. By the end of the war, thousands of contract workers from the Caribbean were employed as W2 workers 
Most of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America historically have had little tradition of immigration to America, before the 1960s. Post 1965 saw a tremendous influx of rural working-class migrants. Proximity to the U.S., fluency in English and Civil Rights legislation were reasons for the disproportionate numbers of Caribbean outflows. The collapse of agriculture in many islands had devastated their economies, the growing replacement of agriculture by tourism in the Eastern Caribbean had greatly increased the urban population and led to neglect of rural communities as well as greater migration to the U.S. from the Caribbean countryside.
The influx of direct, capital-intensive and labor-intensive foreign investment has accelerated the push to migrate out of the region, to the extent that these investments overwhelmed small-scale agriculture and manufacturing and displace workers who sought jobs elsewhere.
The vast majority of West Indian Americans are of African Afro-Caribbean descent, with the remaining portion mainly made up of multi-racials and Indo-Caribbean people, especially in the Guyanese and Trinidadian communities, where people of Indo-Caribbean descent make up a significant portion of the populations. Over 70 percent of non-Latino Caribbean immigrants were from Jamaica and Haiti, as of 2010. Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, the Bahamas, Barbados, and Grenada, among others, also have significant immigrant populations within the United States. Though sometimes divided by language, West Indian Americans share a common Caribbean culture. Of the Latino population, the Puerto Rican, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Honduran, Panamanian, Cuban, and Costa Rican populations are the most culturally similar to the non-Latino West Indian community.
Caribbean American communities
|Country/region of ancestry||Caribbean|
|Trinidadian and Tobagonian||227,523|
|British West Indies||103,244|
|Dutch West Indian||42,808|
|Antiguan and Barbudan||15,199|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||6,368|
|French West Indies||1,915|
|Other West Indians||7,031|
In Florida 549,722 West Indians(excluding Hispanic origin groups) were foreign born as of 2016. Florida had the largest number of resident West Indian(excluding Hispanic origin groups) immigrants in 2016, followed by New York with 490,826 according to the US census.
As of 2016, 9.8% (4,286,266) of the total foreign born residence in the United States was born in the Caribbean.
In 2016, 18%(3,750,000) of Florida's population reported ancestry from the Caribbean.
|State/territory||Non-Latino West Indian-American
population (2010 Census)
|District of Columbia||7,785||1.2|
U.S. Counties with largest West Indian American populations in 2016
- Kings County, New York 305,950 (11.6%)
- Broward County, Florida 277,646 (14.5%)
- Miami-Dade County, Florida 184,393 (6.8%)
- Queens County, New York 166,952 (7.2%)
- Palm Beach County, Florida 126,020 (8.7%)
- Bronx County, New York 115,348 (7.9%)
More than half of Caribbean immigrants either spoke only English or spoke English "very well." In 2009, 33.0 percent of Caribbean immigrants reported speaking only English and 23.9 percent reported speaking English "very well." In contrast, 42.8 percent of Caribbean immigrants were limited English proficient (LEP), meaning they reported speaking English less than "very well." Within this group, 9.7 percent reported that they did not speak English at all, 16.5 percent reported speaking English "well," and 16.7 percent reported speaking English "but not well."
According to the US census for 2016. West Indian Americans of the civilian employed population 16 years and over were 1,549,890. 32.6% were employed in Management, business, science, and arts occupations, 28.5% in Service occupations, 22.2% in Sales and office occupations, 6.1% in Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, and 10.5% in Production, transportation, and material moving occupations.
As of 2017 West Indian Americans are estimated to have a median household income of $54,033. West Indians also have a median family income of $62,867. Married-couple family: $80,626, Male householder, no spouse present, family: $53,101, Female householder, no husband present, family: $43,929. Their Individual per capita income(dollars) was $26,033.
As of 2017, 27.1 percent of West Indian Americans 25 years and over have a bachelor's degree or higher. Male, bachelor's degree or higher was 23.1% and Female, bachelor's degree or higher was 30.3%.
Related ethnic groups and topics
- Panamanian American
- Dominican American
- Puerto Rican American
- Cuban American
- Costa Rican American
- Brazilian American
- African American
- African immigration to the United States
- List of Countries in the Caribbean
- History of the Caribbean
- Spanish Caribbean
Contributions to American culture
There are close to 50 Caribbean carnivals throughout North America that attest to the permanence of the Caribbean immigration experience. West Indians brought music, such as soca, chutney, chutney-soca, filmi, calypso, reggae, compas (kompa) and now reggaeton, which has a profound impact on U.S. popular culture. Cultural expressions, and the prominence of first-and second-generation Caribbean figures in U.S. labor and grassroots politics for many decades also testify to the long tradition and established presence.
National Caribbean American Heritage Month
National Caribbean American Heritage Month is celebrated in June. The heritage month was first officially observed in 2006, after being unanimously adopted by the House of Representatives on June 27, 2005 in H. Con. Res. 71, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, recognizing the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the United States. The Senate adopted the resolution on February 14, 2006, which was introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. On June 5, 2006, George W. Bush issued a presidential proclamation declaring than June be annually recognized as National Caribbean American Heritage Month to celebrate the contributions of Caribbean Americans (both naturalized and US citizens by birth) in the United States. Since the declaration, the White House has issued an annual proclamation recognizing June as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.
The Institute of Caribbean Studies based in Washington DC is the lead organization behind the Campaign which led to the establishment of Caribbean American Heritage Month. However, this claim is not supported by any evidence nor is any reference made or credit given to it by either Sen. Barbara Lee (the sponsor of the adopted Resolution) or any of the many Senators and Representatives who have spoken on the issue. It remains a claim made by an organization that uses the claim in support of its money making activities.
- List of West Indian communities in the United States
- Caribbean immigration to New York City
- Labor Day Carnival
- West Indies Federation
- Indo-Caribbean American
- Institute of Caribbean Studies
- Caribbean American Heritage Month USA
- Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams, by Mary C. Waters
- Percentage of the state population that identifies itself as West Indian relative to the state/territory population as a whole.
- "United States - Selected Population Profile in the United States (West Indian (excluding Hispanic origin groups) (300-359))". 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-03-18.
- "Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
- Fraizer, Martin. "Continuity and change in Caribbean immigration". People's World. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
- Dickerson, Dennis C. "Joseph Sandiford Atwell (1831–1881)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
- Caribbean Migration - AAME - In Motion: The African-American.
- US in Foco: Caribbean Immigrants in the United States. Posted by Kristen McCabe, from Migration Policy Institute, in April 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
- McCabe, Kristine. "Caribbean Immigrants in the United States". Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
- "Table 1. First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-06-09.
- "Place of Birth for the Foreign-born Population in the United States", Census Reporter.
- "2010 Census". Medgar Evers College. Retrieved 2010-04-13.
- US Census Bureau: Table QT-P10 Hispanic or Latino by Type: 2010 retrieved January 22, 2012 - select state from drop-down menu
- "SELECTED POPULATION PROFILE IN THE UNITED STATES | 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates", United States Census.
- Congress (2010-07-16). Congressional Record (Bound Volumes). Government Printing Office. ISBN 9780160861550.
- Lorick-Wilmot, Yndia S. (2017-08-29). Stories of Identity among Black, Middle Class, Second Generation Caribbeans: We, Too, Sing America. Springer. ISBN 9783319622088.
- "June is Caribbean-American Heritage Month! | NRCS Caribbean Area". www.nrcs.usda.gov. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2017-12-14.