African Ethnicities and Their Origins

These contemporary African ethnic groups have contributed most to the black population of the U.S.

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This is a companion piece to Tracing DNA Not Just to Africa but to 1 Tribe.

Advancements in DNA research have shed light on the multifaceted makeup and origins of today’s African Americans. In fact, most of today’s African-American population can trace their ancestry back to one of just 46 ethnic groups. Three large regions of Atlantic Africa were the major contributors to the slave trade: Upper Guinea, including the modern countries of Senegal, Mali, Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia; Lower Guinea, including the southern portions of eastern Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria; and West Central Africa, which encompassed mostly the western portions of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.

Here are the African tribes from which most of today’s African Americans come.

Groups                                                             Location Today          

Wolof                                                               Senegal

Mandinka                                                         Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Gambia,
                                                                        Ivory Coast, Niger, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau

Serer                                                                Senegal, Gambia

Fulbe/Fulani/Peulh/Fula                                  Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea,
                                                                         Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia,
                                                                         Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon 

Jola                                                                   Gambia, Guinea