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African Americans

Racial or ethnic group in the United States with African ancestry

Top 10 African Americans related articles

  (Redirected from African American)
African Americans
Total population
46,713,850 (2019)[1]
14.2% of the total U.S. population (2019)[1]
41,989,671 (2019) (one race)[1]
12.8% of the total U.S. population (2019)[1]
40,596,040 (2019) (non-Hispanic)[1]
12.4% of the total U.S. population (2019)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Across the United States, especially in the South and urban areas
English (American English dialects, African-American English)
Louisiana Creole French
Gullah Creole English
African languages
Predominantly Protestant (71%)
Minorities: Catholic (5%), Jehovah's Witnesses (2%), Muslim (2%); Irreligious or unaffiliated (18%)[2]

African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans)[3] are an ethnic group of Americans with total or partial ancestry from any of the black racial groups of Africa.[4][5] The term African American generally denotes descendants of enslaved black people who are from the United States,[6][7][8] while some recent black immigrants or their children may also come to identify as African-American or may identify differently.[9]

African Americans constitute the third largest ethnic group and the second largest racial group in the US, after White Americans and Hispanic and Latino Americans.[10] Most African Americans are descendants of enslaved people within the boundaries of the present United States.[11][12] On average, African Americans are of West/Central African and European descent, and some also have Native American ancestry.[13] According to U.S. 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%).[14] Immigrants from some Caribbean, Central American, and South American nations and their descendants may or may not also self-identify with the term.[8]

African-American history began in the 17th century, with Africans from West Africa being sold to European slave traders and transported across the Atlantic to the Thirteen Colonies. After arriving in the Americas, they were sold as slaves to European colonists and put to work on plantations, particularly in the southern colonies. A few were able to achieve freedom through manumission or escape and founded independent communities before and during the American Revolution. After the United States was founded in 1783, most black people continued to be enslaved, being mostly concentrated in the American South, with four million enslaved only liberated during and at the end of the Civil War in 1865.[15] Due to white supremacy, most were treated as second-class citizens. The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited U.S. citizenship to whites only, and only white men who owned property could vote.[16][17] These circumstances changed in Reconstruction, further development of the black community, participation in the great military conflicts of the United States, substantial migration out of the South, the elimination of legal racial segregation, and the civil rights movement which sought political and social freedom. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first African American to be elected President of the United States.[18]

African Americans Intro articles: 25


Colonial era

The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from Central and West Africa, who had been sold by other West Africans, or by half-European "merchant princes"[19] to European slave traders (with a small number being captured directly by the slave traders in coastal raids), who brought them to the Americas.[20]

The first African slaves arrived via Santo Domingo to the San Miguel de Gualdape colony (most likely located in the Winyah Bay area of present-day South Carolina), founded by Spanish explorer Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón in 1526.[21] The ill-fated colony was almost immediately disrupted by a fight over leadership, during which the slaves revolted and fled the colony to seek refuge among local Native Americans. De Ayllón and many of the colonists died shortly afterwards of an epidemic and the colony was abandoned. The settlers and the slaves who had not escaped returned to Haiti, whence they had come.[21]

The marriage between Luisa de Abrego, a free black domestic servant from Seville and Miguel Rodríguez, a white Segovian conquistador in 1565 in St. Augustine (Spanish Florida), is the first known and recorded Christian marriage anywhere in what is now the continental United States.[22]

The first recorded Africans in English America (including most of the future United States) were "20 and odd negroes" who came to Jamestown, Virginia via Cape Comfort in August 1619 as indentured servants.[23] As many Virginian settlers began to die from harsh conditions, more and more Africans were brought to work as laborers.[24]

Slaves processing tobacco in 17th-century Virginia, illustration from 1670

An indentured servant (who could be white or black) would work for several years (usually four to seven) without wages. The status of indentured servants in early Virginia and Maryland was similar to slavery. Servants could be bought, sold, or leased and they could be physically beaten for disobedience or running away. Unlike slaves, they were freed after their term of service expired or was bought out, their children did not inherit their status, and on their release from contract they received "a year's provision of corn, double apparel, tools necessary", and a small cash payment called "freedom dues".[25]

Africans could legally raise crops and cattle to purchase their freedom.[26] They raised families, married other Africans and sometimes intermarried with Native Americans or European settlers.[27]

The first slave auction at New Amsterdam in 1655, illustration from 1895 by Howard Pyle[28]

By the 1640s and 1650s, several African families owned farms around Jamestown and some became wealthy by colonial standards and purchased indentured servants of their own. In 1640, the Virginia General Court recorded the earliest documentation of lifetime slavery when they sentenced John Punch, a Negro, to lifetime servitude under his master Hugh Gwyn for running away.[29][30]

In the Spanish Florida some Spanish married or had unions with Pensacola, Creek or African women, both slave and free, and their descendants created a mixed-race population of mestizos and mulattos. The Spanish encouraged slaves from the colony of Georgia to come to Florida as a refuge, promising freedom in exchange for conversion to Catholicism. King Charles II issued a royal proclamation freeing all slaves who fled to Spanish Florida and accepted conversion and baptism. Most went to the area around St. Augustine, but escaped slaves also reached Pensacola. St. Augustine had mustered an all-black militia unit defending Spanish Florida as early as 1683.[31]

One of the Dutch African arrivals, Anthony Johnson, would later own one of the first black "slaves", John Casor, resulting from the court ruling of a civil case.[32][33]

The popular conception of a race-based slave system did not fully develop until the 18th century. The Dutch West India Company introduced slavery in 1625 with the importation of eleven black slaves into New Amsterdam (present-day New York City). All the colony's slaves, however, were freed upon its surrender to the English.[34]

Reproduction of a handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769

Massachusetts was the first English colony to legally recognize slavery in 1641. In 1662, Virginia passed a law that children of enslaved women took the status of the mother, rather than that of the father, as under common law. This legal principle was called partus sequitur ventrum.[35][36]

By an act of 1699, the colony ordered all free blacks deported, virtually defining as slaves all people of African descent who remained in the colony.[37] In 1670, the colonial assembly passed a law prohibiting free and baptized blacks (and Indians) from purchasing Christians (in this act meaning White Europeans) but allowing them to buy people "of their owne nation".[38]

In the Spanish Louisiana although there was no movement toward abolition of the African slave trade, Spanish rule introduced a new law called coartación, which allowed slaves to buy their freedom, and that of others.[39] Although some did not have the money to buy their freedom that government measures on slavery allowed a high number of free blacks. That brought problems to the Spaniards with the French Creoles who also populated Spanish Louisiana, French creoles cited that measure as one of the system's worst elements.[40]

First established in South Carolina in 1704, groups of armed white men—slave patrols—were formed to monitor enslaved black people.[41] Their function was to police slaves, especially fugitives. Slave owners feared that slaves might organize revolts or slave rebellions, so state militias were formed in order to provide a military command structure and discipline within the slave patrols so they could be used to detect, encounter, and crush any organized slave meetings which might lead to revolts or rebellions.[41]

The earliest African-American congregations and churches were organized before 1800 in both northern and southern cities following the Great Awakening. By 1775, Africans made up 20% of the population in the American colonies, which made them the second largest ethnic group after English Americans.[42]

From the American Revolution to the Civil War

During the 1770s, Africans, both enslaved and free, helped rebellious American colonists secure their independence by defeating the British in the American Revolutionary War.[43] African Americans and European Americans fought side by side and were fully integrated.[44] Blacks played a role in both sides in the American Revolution. Activists in the Patriot cause included James Armistead, Prince Whipple and Oliver Cromwell.[45][46]

In the Spanish Louisiana, Governor Bernardo de Gálvez organized Spanish free black men into two militia companies to defend New Orleans during the American Revolution. They fought in the 1779 battle in which Spain captured Baton Rouge from the British. Gálvez also commanded them in campaigns against the British outposts in Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida, he recruited slaves for the militia by pledging to free anyone who was seriously wounded and promised to secure a low price for coartación (buy their freedom and that of others) for those who received lesser wounds. During the 1790s, Governor Francisco Luis Héctor, baron of Carondelet reinforced local fortifications and recruit even more free blackmen for the militia. Carondelet doubled the number of free blackmen who served, creating two more militia companies—one made up of black members and the other of pardo (mixed race). Serving in the militia brought free blackmen one step closer to equality with whites, allowing them, for example, the right to carry arms and boosting their earning power. However actually these privileges distanced free blackmen from enslaved blacks and encouraged them to identify with whites.[40]

Slavery had been tacitly enshrined in the U.S. Constitution through provisions such as Article I, Section 2, Clause 3, commonly known as the 3/5 compromise. Slavery, which by then meant almost exclusively black people, was the most important political issue in the antebellum United States, leading to one crisis after another. Among these were the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act, and the Dred Scott decision.

Prior to the Civil War, eight serving presidents owned slaves, a practice protected by the U.S. Constitution.[47] By 1860, there were 3.5 to 4.4 million enslaved black people in the U.S. due to the Atlantic slave trade, and another 488,000–500,000 blacks lived free (with legislated limits)[48] across the country.[49] With legislated limits imposed upon them in addition to "unconquerable prejudice" from whites according to Henry Clay,[50] some black people who were not enslaved left the U.S. for Liberia in West Africa.[48] Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in 1821, with the abolitionist members of the ACS believing blacks would face better chances for freedom and equality in Africa.[48]

The slaves not only constituted a large investment, they produced America's most valuable product and export: cotton. They not only helped build the U.S. Capitol, they built the White House and other District of Columbia buildings. (Washington was a slave trading center.)[51] Similar building projects existed in slaveholding states.

In 1863, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation declared that all slaves in Confederate-held territory were free.[52] Advancing Union troops enforced the proclamation, with Texas being the last state to be emancipated, in 1865.[53]

Harriet Tubman, around 1869

Slavery in Union-held Confederate territory continued, at least on paper, until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.[54] Prior to the Civil War, only white men of property could vote, and the Naturalization Act of 1790 limited U.S. citizenship to whites only.[16][17] The 14th Amendment (1868) gave black people citizenship, and the 15th Amendment (1870) gave black males the right to vote (only males could vote in the U.S. at the time).[55]

Reconstruction era and Jim Crow

African Americans quickly set up congregations for themselves, as well as schools and community/civic associations, to have space away from white control or oversight. While the post-war Reconstruction era was initially a time of progress for African Americans, that period ended in 1876. By the late 1890s, Southern states enacted Jim Crow laws to enforce racial segregation and disenfranchisement.[56] Segregation, which began with slavery, continued with Jim Crow laws, with signs used to show blacks where they could legally walk, talk, drink, rest, or eat.[57] For those places that were racially mixed, non-whites had to wait until all white customers were dealt with.[57] Most African Americans obeyed the Jim Crow laws, to avoid racially motivated violence. To maintain self-esteem and dignity, African Americans such as Anthony Overton and Mary McLeod Bethune continued to build their own schools, churches, banks, social clubs, and other businesses.[58]

In the last decade of the 19th century, racially discriminatory laws and racial violence aimed at African Americans began to mushroom in the United States, a period often referred to as the "nadir of American race relations". These discriminatory acts included racial segregation—upheld by the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896—which was legally mandated by southern states and nationwide at the local level of government, voter suppression or disenfranchisement in the southern states, denial of economic opportunity or resources nationwide, and private acts of violence and mass racial violence aimed at African Americans unhindered or encouraged by government authorities.[59]

Great migration and civil rights movement

A group of white men pose for a 1919 photograph as they stand over the black victim Will Brown who had been lynched and had his body mutilated and burned during the Omaha race riot of 1919 in Omaha, Nebraska. Postcards and photographs of lynchings were popular souvenirs in the U.S.[60]

The desperate conditions of African Americans in the South sparked the Great Migration during the first half of the 20th century which led to a growing African-American community in Northern and Western United States.[61] The rapid influx of blacks disturbed the racial balance within Northern and Western cities, exacerbating hostility between both blacks and whites in the two regions.[62] The Red Summer of 1919 was marked by hundreds of deaths and higher casualties across the U.S. as a result of race riots that occurred in more than three dozen cities, such as the Chicago race riot of 1919 and the Omaha race riot of 1919. Overall, blacks in Northern and Western cities experienced systemic discrimination in a plethora of aspects of life. Within employment, economic opportunities for blacks were routed to the lowest-status and restrictive in potential mobility. At the 1900 Hampton Negro Conference, Reverend Matthew Anderson said: "...the lines along most of the avenues of wage earning are more rigidly drawn in the North than in the South."[63] Within the housing market, stronger discriminatory measures were used in correlation to the influx, resulting in a mix of "targeted violence, restrictive covenants, redlining and racial steering".[64] While many whites defended their space with violence, intimidation, or legal tactics toward African Americans, many other whites migrated to more racially homogeneous suburban or exurban regions, a process known as white flight.[65]

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted after being arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus to a white person

Despite discrimination, drawing cards for leaving the hopelessness in the South were the growth of African-American institutions and communities in Northern cities. Institutions included black oriented organizations (e.g., Urban League, NAACP), churches, businesses, and newspapers, as well as successes in the development in African-American intellectual culture, music, and popular culture (e.g., Harlem Renaissance, Chicago Black Renaissance). The Cotton Club in Harlem was a whites-only establishment, with blacks (such as Duke Ellington) allowed to perform, but to a white audience.[66] Black Americans also found a new ground for political power in Northern cities, without the enforced disabilities of Jim Crow.[67][68]

By the 1950s, the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. A 1955 lynching that sparked public outrage about injustice was that of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy from Chicago. Spending the summer with relatives in Money, Mississippi, Till was killed for allegedly having wolf-whistled at a white woman. Till had been badly beaten, one of his eyes was gouged out, and he was shot in the head. The visceral response to his mother's decision to have an open-casket funeral mobilized the black community throughout the U.S.[69] Vann R. Newkirk| wrote "the trial of his killers became a pageant illuminating the tyranny of white supremacy".[69] The state of Mississippi tried two defendants, but they were speedily acquitted by an all-white jury.[70] One hundred days after Emmett Till's murder, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus in Alabama—indeed, Parks told Emmett's mother Mamie Till that "the photograph of Emmett's disfigured face in the casket was set in her mind when she refused to give up her seat on the Montgomery bus."[71]

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963, shows civil rights leaders and union leaders

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the conditions which brought it into being are credited with putting pressure on presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson put his support behind passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and labor unions, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which expanded federal authority over states to ensure black political participation through protection of voter registration and elections.[72] By 1966, the emergence of the Black Power movement, which lasted from 1966 to 1975, expanded upon the aims of the civil rights movement to include economic and political self-sufficiency, and freedom from white authority.[73]

During the post-war period, many African Americans continued to be economically disadvantaged relative to other Americans. Average black income stood at 54 percent of that of white workers in 1947, and 55 percent in 1962. In 1959, median family income for whites was $5,600, compared with $2,900 for nonwhite families. In 1965, 43 percent of all black families fell into the poverty bracket, earning under $3,000 a year. The Sixties saw improvements in the social and economic conditions of many black Americans.[74]

From 1965 to 1969, black family income rose from 54 to 60 percent of white family income. In 1968, 23 percent of black families earned under $3,000 a year, compared with 41 percent in 1960. In 1965, 19 percent of black Americans had incomes equal to the national median, a proportion that rose to 27 percent by 1967. In 1960, the median level of education for blacks had been 10.8 years, and by the late Sixties the figure rose to 12.2 years, half a year behind the median for whites.[74]

Post–civil rights era

Black Lives Matter protest in response to the Philando Castile shooting in July 2016

Politically and economically, African Americans have made substantial strides during the post–civil rights era. In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress. In 1989, Douglas Wilder became the first African American elected governor in U.S. history. Clarence Thomas became the second African-American Supreme Court Justice. In 1992, Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois became the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. There were 8,936 black officeholders in the United States in 2000, showing a net increase of 7,467 since 1970. In 2001, there were 484 black mayors.[75]

In 2005, the number of Africans immigrating to the United States, in a single year, surpassed the peak number who were involuntarily brought to the United States during the Atlantic Slave Trade.[76] On November 4, 2008, Democratic Senator Barack Obama defeated Republican Senator John McCain to become the first African American to be elected president. At least 95 percent of African-American voters voted for Obama.[77][78] He also received overwhelming support from young and educated whites, a majority of Asians,[79] and Hispanics,[79] picking up a number of new states in the Democratic electoral column.[77][78] Obama lost the overall white vote, although he won a larger proportion of white votes than any previous nonincumbent Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter.[80] Obama was reelected for a second and final term, by a similar margin on November 6, 2012.[81] In 2021, Kamala Harris became the first woman, the first African American (and the first Asian American) to serve as Vice President of the United States.[82]

African Americans History articles: 145


The proportional geographic distribution of African Americans in the United States, 2000
U.S. Census map indicating U.S. counties with fewer than 25 black or African-American inhabitants
% Black by state in 2019
Graph showing the percentage of the African-American population living in the American South, 1790–2010. Note the major declines between 1910 and 1940 and 1940–1970, and the reverse trend post-1970. Nonetheless, the absolute majority of the African-American population has always lived in the American South.

In 1790, when the first U.S. Census was taken, Africans (including slaves and free people) numbered about 760,000—about 19.3% of the population. In 1860, at the start of the Civil War, the African-American population had increased to 4.4 million, but the percentage rate dropped to 14% of the overall population of the country. The vast majority were slaves, with only 488,000 counted as "freemen". By 1900, the black population had doubled and reached 8.8 million.[83]

In 1910, about 90% of African Americans lived in the South. Large numbers began migrating north looking for better job opportunities and living conditions, and to escape Jim Crow laws and racial violence. The Great Migration, as it was called, spanned the 1890s to the 1970s. From 1916 through the 1960s, more than 6 million black people moved north. But in the 1970s and 1980s, that trend reversed, with more African Americans moving south to the Sun Belt than leaving it.[84]

The following table of the African-American population in the United States over time shows that the African-American population, as a percentage of the total population, declined until 1930 and has been rising since then.

African Americans in the United States[85]
Year Number % of total
% Change
(10 yr)
Slaves % in slavery
1790 757,208 19.3% (highest)  – 697,681 92%
1800 1,002,037 18.9% 32.3% 893,602 89%
1810 1,377,808 19.0% 37.5% 1,191,362 86%
1820 1,771,656 18.4% 28.6% 1,538,022 87%
1830 2,328,642 18.1% 31.4% 2,009,043 86%
1840 2,873,648 16.8% 23.4% 2,487,355 87%
1850 3,638,808 15.7% 26.6% 3,204,287 88%
1860 4,441,830 14.1% 22.1% 3,953,731 89%
1870 4,880,009 12.7% 9.9%  –  –
1880 6,580,793 13.1% 34.9%  –  –
1890 7,488,788 11.9% 13.8%  –  –
1900 8,833,994 11.6% 18.0%  –  –
1910 9,827,763 10.7% 11.2%  –  –
1920 10.5 million 9.9% 6.8%  –  –
1930 11.9 million 9.7% (lowest) 13%  –  –
1940 12.9 million 9.8% 8.4%  –  –
1950 15.0 million 10.0% 16%  –  –
1960 18.9 million 10.5% 26%  –  –
1970 22.6 million 11.1% 20%  –  –
1980 26.5 million 11.7% 17%  –  –
1990 30.0 million 12.1% 13%  –  –
2000 34.6 million 12.3% 15%  –  –
2010 38.9 million 12.6% 12%  –  –

By 1990, the African-American population reached about 30 million and represented 12% of the U.S. population, roughly the same proportion as in 1900.[86]

At the time of the 2000 Census, 54.8% of African Americans lived in the South. In that year, 17.6% of African Americans lived in the Northeast and 18.7% in the Midwest, while only 8.9% lived in the western states. The west does have a sizable black population in certain areas, however. California, the nation's most populous state, has the fifth largest African-American population, only behind New York, Texas, Georgia, and Florida. According to the 2000 Census, approximately 2.05% of African Americans identified as Hispanic or Latino in origin,[10] many of whom may be of Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, Haitian, or other Latin American descent. The only self-reported ancestral groups larger than African Americans are the Irish and Germans.[87]

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, nearly 3% of people who self-identified as black had recent ancestors who immigrated from another country. Self-reported non-Hispanic black immigrants from the Caribbean, mostly from Jamaica and Haiti, represented 0.9% of the U.S. population, at 2.6 million.[88] Self-reported black immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa also represented 0.9%, at about 2.8 million.[88] Additionally, self-identified Black Hispanics represented 0.4% of the United States population, at about 1.2 million people, largely found within the Puerto Rican and Dominican communities.[89] Self-reported black immigrants hailing from other countries in the Americas, such as Brazil and Canada, as well as several European countries, represented less than 0.1% of the population. Mixed-Race Hispanic and non-Hispanic Americans who identified as being part black, represented 0.9% of the population. Of the 12.6% of United States residents who identified as black, around 10.3% were "native black American" or ethnic African Americans, who are direct descendants of West/Central Africans brought to the U.S. as slaves. These individuals make up well over 80% of all blacks in the country. When including people of mixed-race origin, about 13.5% of the U.S. population self-identified as black or "mixed with black".[90] However, according to the U.S. census bureau, evidence from the 2000 Census indicates that many African and Caribbean immigrant ethnic groups do not identify as "Black, African Am., or Negro". Instead, they wrote in their own respective ethnic groups in the "Some Other Race" write-in entry. As a result, the census bureau devised a new, separate "African American" ethnic group category in 2010 for ethnic African Americans.[91]

U.S. cities

After 100 years of African Americans leaving the south in large numbers seeking better opportunities and treatment in the west and north, a movement known as the Great Migration, there is now a reverse trend, called the New Great Migration. As with the earlier Great Migration, the New Great Migration is primarily directed toward cities and large urban areas, such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Dallas, Raleigh, Tampa, San Antonio, Memphis, Nashville, Jacksonville, and so forth.[92] A growing percentage of African-Americans from the west and north are migrating to the southern region of the U.S. for economic and cultural reasons. New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles have the highest decline in African Americans, while Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston have the highest increase respectively.[92]

Among cities of 100,000 or more, Detroit, Michigan had the highest percentage of black residents of any U.S. city in 2010, with 82%. Other large cities with African-American majorities include Jackson, Mississippi (79.4%), Miami Gardens, Florida (76.3%), Baltimore, Maryland (63%), Birmingham, Alabama (62.5%), Memphis, Tennessee (61%), New Orleans, Louisiana (60%), Montgomery, Alabama (56.6%), Flint, Michigan (56.6%), Savannah, Georgia (55.0%), Augusta, Georgia (54.7%), Atlanta, Georgia (54%, see African Americans in Atlanta), Cleveland, Ohio (53.3%), Newark, New Jersey (52.35%), Washington, D.C. (50.7%), Richmond, Virginia (50.6%), Mobile, Alabama (50.6%), Baton Rouge, Louisiana (50.4%), and Shreveport, Louisiana (50.4%).

The nation's most affluent community with an African-American majority resides in View Park–Windsor Hills, California with an annual median household income of $159,618.[93] Other largely affluent and African-American communities include Prince George's County in Maryland (namely Mitchellville, Woodmore, and Upper Marlboro), Dekalb County and South Fulton in Georgia, Charles City County in Virginia, Baldwin Hills in California, Hillcrest and Uniondale in New York, and Cedar Hill, DeSoto, and Missouri City in Texas. Queens County, New York is the only county with a population of 65,000 or more where African Americans have a higher median household income than White Americans.[94]

Seatack, Virginia is currently the oldest African-American community in the United States.[95] It survives today with a vibrant and active civic community.[96]


Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium.

In 1863, enslaved Americans became free citizens during a time when public educational systems were expanding across the country. By 1870, around seventy-four institutions in the south provided a form of advanced education for African American students, and by 1800, over a hundred programs at these schools provided training for Black professionals, including teachers. Many of the students at Fisk University, including W. E. B. Du Bois when he was a student there, taught school during the summers to support their studies.[97]

African Americans were very concerned to provide quality education for their children, but White supremacy limited their ability to participate in educational policymaking on the political level. State governments soon moved to undermine their citizenship by restricting their right to vote. By the late 1870s, Blacks were disenfranchised and segregated across the American South.[98] White politicians in Mississippi and other states withheld financial resources and supplies from Black schools. Nevertheless, the presence of Black teachers, and their engagement with their communities both inside and outside the classroom, ensured that Black students had access to education despite these external constraints.[99][100]

Predominantly black schools for kindergarten through twelfth grade students were common throughout the U.S. before the 1970s. By 1972, however, desegregation efforts meant that only 25% of Black students were in schools with more than 90% non-white students. However, since then, a trend towards re-segregation affected communities across the country: by 2011, 2.9 million African-American students were in such overwhelmingly minority schools, including 53% of Black students in school districts that were formerly under desegregation orders.[101][102]

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), which were originally set up when segregated colleges did not admit African Americans, continue to thrive and educate students of all races today. The majority of HBCUs were established in the southeastern United States, Alabama has the most HBCUs of any state.[103][104]

As late as 1947, about one third of African Americans over 65 were considered to lack the literacy to read and write their own names. By 1969, illiteracy as it had been traditionally defined, had been largely eradicated among younger African Americans.[105]

U.S. Census surveys showed that by 1998, 89 percent of African Americans aged 25 to 29 had completed a high-school education, less than whites or Asians, but more than Hispanics. On many college entrance, standardized tests and grades, African Americans have historically lagged behind whites, but some studies suggest that the achievement gap has been closing. Many policy makers have proposed that this gap can and will be eliminated through policies such as affirmative action, desegregation, and multiculturalism.[106]

Between 1995 and 2009, freshmen college enrollment for African Americans increased by 73 percent and only 15 percent for whites.[107] Black women are enrolled in college more than any other race and gender group, leading all with 9.7% enrolled according to the 2011 U.S. Census Bureau.[108][109] The average high school graduation rate of blacks in the United States has steadily increased to 71% in 2013.[110] Separating this statistic into component parts shows it varies greatly depending upon the state and the school district examined. 38% of black males graduated in the state of New York but in Maine 97% graduated and exceeded the white male graduation rate by 11 percentage points.[111] In much of the southeastern United States and some parts of the southwestern United States the graduation rate of white males was in fact below 70% such as in Florida where 62% of white males graduated from high school. Examining specific school districts paints an even more complex picture. In the Detroit school district the graduation rate of black males was 20% but 7% for white males. In the New York City school district 28% of black males graduate from high school compared to 57% of white males. In Newark County 76% of black males graduated compared to 67% for white males. Further academic improvement has occurred in 2015. Roughly 23% of all blacks have bachelor's degrees. In 1988, 21% of whites had obtained a bachelor's degree versus 11% of blacks. In 2015, 23% of blacks had obtained a bachelor's degree versus 36% of whites.[112] Foreign born blacks, 9% of the black population, made even greater strides. They exceed native born blacks by 10 percentage points.[112]

Economic status

The US homeownership rate according to race[113]

Economically, African Americans have benefited from the advances made during the civil rights era, particularly among the educated, but not without the lingering effects of historical marginalisation when considered as a whole. The racial disparity in poverty rates has narrowed. The black middle class has grown substantially. In 2010, 45% of African Americans owned their homes, compared to 67% of all Americans.[114] The poverty rate among African Americans has decreased from 26.5% in 1998 to 24.7% in 2004, compared to 12.7% for all Americans.[115]

This graph shows the real median US household income by race: 1967 to 2011, in 2011 dollars.[116]

African Americans have a combined buying power of over $892 billion currently and likely over $1.1 trillion by 2012.[117][118] In 2002, African American-owned businesses accounted for 1.2 million of the US's 23 million businesses.[119] As of 2011 African American-owned businesses account for approximately 2 million US businesses.[120] Black-owned businesses experienced the largest growth in number of businesses among minorities from 2002 to 2011.[120]

In 2004, African-American men had the third-highest earnings of American minority groups after Asian Americans and non-Hispanic whites.[121]

Twenty-five percent of blacks had white-collar occupations (management, professional, and related fields) in 2000, compared with 33.6% of Americans overall.[122][123] In 2001, over half of African-American households of married couples earned $50,000 or more.[123] Although in the same year African Americans were over-represented among the nation's poor, this was directly related to the disproportionate percentage of African-American families headed by single women; such families are collectively poorer, regardless of ethnicity.[123]

In 2006, the median earnings of African-American men was more than black and non-black American women overall, and in all educational levels.[124][125][126][127][128] At the same time, among American men, income disparities were significant; the median income of African-American men was approximately 76 cents for every dollar of their European American counterparts, although the gap narrowed somewhat with a rise in educational level.[124][129]

Overall, the median earnings of African-American men were 72 cents for every dollar earned of their Asian American counterparts, and $1.17 for every dollar earned by Hispanic men.[124][127][130] On the other hand, by 2006, among American women with post-secondary education, African-American women have made significant advances; the median income of African-American women was more than those of their Asian-, European- and Hispanic American counterparts with at least some college education.[125][126][131]

The U.S. public sector is the single most important source of employment for African Americans.[132] During 2008–2010, 21.2% of all Black workers were public employees, compared with 16.3% of non-Black workers.[132] Both before and after the onset of the Great Recession, African Americans were 30% more likely than other workers to be employed in the public sector.[132]

The public sector is also a critical source of decent-paying jobs for Black Americans. For both men and women, the median wage earned by Black employees is significantly higher in the public sector than in other industries.[132]

In 1999, the median income of African-American families was $33,255 compared to $53,356 of European Americans. In times of economic hardship for the nation, African Americans suffer disproportionately from job loss and underemployment, with the black underclass being hardest hit. The phrase "last hired and first fired" is reflected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment figures. Nationwide, the October 2008 unemployment rate for African Americans was 11.1%,[133] while the nationwide rate was 6.5%.[134]

The income gap between black and white families is also significant. In 2005, employed blacks earned 65% of the wages of whites, down from 82% in 1975.[115] The New York Times reported in 2006 that in Queens, New York, the median income among African-American families exceeded that of white families, which the newspaper attributed to the growth in the number of two-parent black families. It noted that Queens was the only county with more than 65,000 residents where that was true.[94] In 2011, it was reported that 72% of black babies were born to unwed mothers.[135] The poverty rate among single-parent black families was 39.5% in 2005, according to Walter E. Williams, while it was 9.9% among married-couple black families. Among white families, the respective rates were 26.4% and 6% in poverty.[136]

Collectively, African Americans are more involved in the American political process than other minority groups in the United States, indicated by the highest level of voter registration and participation in elections among these groups in 2004.[137] African Americans collectively attain higher levels of education than immigrants to the United States.[137] African Americans also have the highest level of Congressional representation of any minority group in the U.S.[138]


Since the mid 20th century, a large majority of African Americans support the Democratic Party. In the 2004 Presidential Election, Democrat John Kerry received 88% of the African-American vote compared to 11% for Republican George W. Bush.[139] Although there is an African-American lobby in foreign policy, it has not had the impact that African-American organizations have had in domestic policy.[140]

Many African Americans were excluded from electoral politics in the decades following the end of Reconstruction. For those that could participate, until the New Deal, African Americans were supporters of the Republican Party because it was Republican President Abraham Lincoln who helped in granting freedom to American slaves; at the time, the Republicans and Democrats represented the sectional interests of the North and South, respectively, rather than any specific ideology, and both conservative and liberal were represented equally in both parties.

The African-American trend of voting for Democrats can be traced back to the 1930s during the Great Depression, when Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program provided economic relief to African Americans. Roosevelt's New Deal coalition turned the Democratic Party into an organization of the working class and their liberal allies, regardless of region. The African-American vote became even more solidly Democratic when Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson pushed for civil rights legislation during the 1960s. In 1960, nearly a third of African Americans voted for Republican Richard Nixon.[141]


According to a Gallup survey, 4.6% of black or African-Americans self-identified as LGBT in 2016,[142] while the total portion of American adults in all ethnic groups identifying as LGBT was 4.1% in 2016.[142]



The life expectancy for black men in 2008 was 70.8 years.[143] Life expectancy for black women was 77.5 years in 2008.[143] In 1900, when information on black life expectancy started being collated, a black man could expect to live to 32.5 years and a black woman 33.5 years.[143] In 1900, white men lived an average of 46.3 years and white women lived an average of 48.3 years.[143] African-American life expectancy at birth is persistently five to seven years lower than European Americans.[144] Black men have shorter lifespans than any other group in the US besides Native American men.[145]

Black people have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension than the U.S. average.[143] For adult black men, the rate of obesity was 31.6% in 2010.[146] For adult black women, the rate of obesity was 41.2% in 2010.[146] African Americans have higher rates of mortality than any other racial or ethnic group for 8 of the top 10 causes of death.[147] In 2013, among men, black men had the highest rate of getting cancer, followed by white, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander (A/PI), and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) men. Among women, white women had the highest rate of getting cancer, followed by black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.[148]

Violence has an impact upon African-American life expectancy. A report from the U.S. Department of Justice states "In 2005, homicide victimization rates for blacks were 6 times higher than the rates for whites".[149] The report also found that "94% of black victims were killed by blacks."[149] Black boys and men age 15–44 are the only race/sex category for which homicide is a top-five cause of death.[145]

Sexual health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) compared to whites, with 5 times the rates of syphilis and chlamydia, and 7.5 times the rate of gonorrhea.[150]

The disproportionately high incidence of HIV/AIDS among African-Americans has been attributed to homophobic influences and lack of access to proper healthcare.[151] The prevalence of HIV/AIDS among black men is seven times higher than the prevalence for white men, and black men are more than nine times as likely to die from HIV/AIDS-related illness than white men.[145]

Washington, D.C. has the nation's highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection, at 3%. This rate is comparable to what is seen in West Africa, and is considered a severe epidemic.[152] Ray Martins, Chief Medical Officer at the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the largest provider of HIV care in Washington D.C., estimated that the actual underlying percent with HIV/AIDS in the city is "closer to five percent".[152]

Mental health

African Americans have several barriers for accessing mental health services. Counseling has been frowned upon and distant in utility and proximity to many people in the African American community. In 2004, a qualitative research study explored the disconnect with African Americans and mental health. The study was conducted as a semi-structured discussion which allowed the focus group to express their opinions and life experiences. The results revealed a couple key variables that create barriers for many African American communities to seek mental health services such as the stigma, lack of four important necessities; trust, affordability, cultural understanding and impersonal services.[153]

Historically, many African American communities did not seek counseling because religion was a part of the family values.[154] African American who have a faith background are more likely to seek prayer as a coping mechanism for mental issues rather than seeking professional mental health services.[153] In 2015 a study concluded, African Americans with high value in religion are less likely to utilize mental health services compared to those who have low value in religion.[155]

Most counseling approaches are westernized and do not fit within the African American culture. African American families tend to resolve concerns within the family, and it is viewed by the family as a strength. On the other hand, when African Americans seek counseling, they face a social backlash and are criticized. They may be labeled "crazy", viewed as weak, and their pride is diminished.[153] Because of this, many African Americans instead seek mentorship within communities they trust.

Terminology is another barrier in relation to African Americans and mental health. There is more stigma on the term psychotherapy versus counseling. In one study, psychotherapy is associated with mental illness whereas counseling approaches problem-solving, guidance and help.[153] More African Americans seek assistance when it is called counseling and not psychotherapy because it is more welcoming within the cultural and community.[156] Counselors are encouraged to be aware of such barriers for the well-being of African American clients. Without cultural competency training in health care, many African Americans go unheard and misunderstood.[153]

Although suicide is a top-10 cause of death for men overall in the US, it is not a top-10 cause of death for black men.[145]

African Americans Demographics articles: 117