African Americans

African Americans
Black Americans by county.png
Proportion of Black Americans in each county of the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as of the 2020 United States census
Total population
46,936,733 (2020)[1]
14.2% of the total U.S. population (2020)[1]
41,104,200 (2020) (one race)[1]
12.4% of the total U.S. population (2020)[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
Predominantly Protestant (71%) including Historically Black Protestant (53%), Evangelical Protestant (14%), and Mainline Protestant (4%);
significant[note 1] others include Catholic (5%), Jehovah's Witnesses (2%), Muslim (2%), and unaffiliated (18%)[2]

African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans and Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group consisting of Americans with partial or total ancestry from sub-Saharan Africa.[3][4] The term "African American" generally denotes descendants of enslaved Africans who are from the United States.[5][6][7] While some Black immigrants or their children may also come to identify as African-American, the majority of first generation immigrants do not, preferring to identify with their nation of origin.[8][9]

African Americans constitute the second largest racial group in the U.S. after White Americans, as well as the third largest ethnic group after 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 with some European descent; some also have Native American and other 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%).[9] Immigrants from some Caribbean and Latin American nations and their descendants may or may not also self-identify with the term.[7]

African-American history began in the 16th 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 most concentrated in the American South, with four million enslaved only liberated during and at the end of the Civil War in 1865.[14] During Reconstruction, they gained citizenship and the right to vote; due to the widespread policy and ideology of white supremacy, they were largely treated as second-class citizens and found themselves soon disenfranchised in the South. These circumstances changed due to participation in the 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.[15]

African-American culture had a significant influence on worldwide culture, making numerous contributions to visual arts, literature, the English language, philosophy, politics, cuisine, sports and music. The African-American contribution to popular music is so profound that virtually all American music, such as jazz, gospel, blues, hip hop, R&B, soul and rock all have their origins at least partially or entirely among African-Americans.[16][17]

  1. ^ a b c d "Race and Ethnicity in the United States: 2010 Census and 2020 Census". U.S. Census Bureau. August 12, 2021.
  2. ^ "Religious tradition by race/ethnicity (2014)". The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  3. ^ "The Black Population: 2010" (PDF),, September 2011. "Black or African Americans" refers to a person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. The Black racial category includes people who marked the "Black, African Am., or Negro" checkbox. It also includes respondents who reported entries such as African American; Sub-Saharan African entries, such as Kenyan and Nigerian; and Afro-Caribbean entries, such as Haitian and Jamaican."
  4. ^ African Americans Law & Legal Definition: "African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have origins in any of the black populations of Africa. In the United States, the terms are generally used for Americans with at least partial Sub-Saharan African ancestry."
  5. ^ Martin, Carol Lynn; Fabes, Richard (2008). Discovering Child Development. Cengage Learning. p. 19. ISBN 978-1111808112. Retrieved October 25, 2014. most (but not all) Americans of African descent are grouped racially as Black; however, the term African American refers to an ethnic group, most often to people whose ancestors experienced slavery in the United States (Soberon, 1996). Thus, not all Blacks in the United States are African-American (for example, some are from Haiti and others are from the Caribbean).
  6. ^ Locke, Don C.; Bailey, Deryl F. (2013). Increasing Multicultural Understanding. SAGE Publications. p. 106. ISBN 978-1483314211. Retrieved March 7, 2018. African American refers to descendants of enslaved Black people who are from the United States. The reason we use an entire continent (Africa) instead of a country (e.g., Irish American) is because slave masters purposefully obliterated tribal ancestry, language, and family units in order to destroy the spirit of the people they enslaved, thereby making it impossible for their descendants to trace their history prior to being born into slavery.
  7. ^ a b "The size and regional distribution of the black population". Lewis Mumford Center. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
  8. ^ Forson, Tracy Scott (February 21, 2018). "Who is an 'African American'? Definition evolves as USA does". USA Today. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Kusow, AM. "African Immigrants in the United States: Implications for Affirmative Action". Iowa State University. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  10. ^ American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau. "United States – QT-P4. Race, Combinations of Two Races, and Not Hispanic or Latino: 2000". Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  11. ^ Gomez, Michael A: Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South, p. 29. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 1998.
  12. ^ Rucker, Walter C. (2006). The River Flows On: Black resistance, culture, and identity formation in early America. LSU Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-8071-3109-1.
  13. ^ Gates, Henry Louis Jr (2009). In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past. New York: Crown Publishing. pp. 20–21.
  14. ^ "How the end of slavery led to starvation and death for millions of black Americans". The Guardian. October 8, 2015.
  15. ^ MacAskill, Ewen; Goldenberg, Suzanne; Schor, Elana (November 5, 2008). "Barack Obama to be America's first black president". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  16. ^ "The soundtrack of history: How Black music has shaped American culture through time". NBC News. Retrieved April 14, 2022.
  17. ^ "How Black People Created All Your Favorite Music". Highsnobiety. November 4, 2020. Retrieved April 14, 2022.

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