More Africans Immigrated to the US in the 2000s Than Came by Slave Ship

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele
Nigerian immigrant Benjamin Njoku stands for a portrait before being naturalized as a U.S. citizen March 22, 2013, in New York City. He works as a registered nurse and lives in the Bronx borough of New York City. 
John Moore/Getty Images

It's sort of a weird benchmark to use to illustrate just how many sub-Saharan black Africans have immigrated to the United States over the past several years, but it's impactful: According to a New York Times report, more black Africans moved to the U.S. between 2000 and 2010 than were brought to the North American continent by slave ship during the three-centuries-long Atlantic slave trade.

“Between 2000 and 2010, the number of legal black African immigrants in the United States about doubled, to around 1 million,” the Times reports. “During that single decade, according to the most reliable estimates, more black Africans arrived in this country on their own than were imported directly to North America during the more than three centuries of the slave trade.”


And while African immigrants are certainly not a new phenomenon in our nation’s cities, how quickly their populations are growing means that “the demographic landscape across the country” is shifting in many major cities.

There’s the Ghanaian enclave in the western portion of New York City’s Bronx borough, the Nigerian sects in Houston and Chicago, the Ethiopian community in Washington, D.C.—African immigrants come to the U.S. and move to neighborhoods that are already filled with former emigrants from their native countries. They’re also more likely to settle in cities scattered across the country than Caribbean-born blacks.

The report explains how they’re usually cherry-picked by American embassies, which screen for certain qualifications so that the immigrants can hit the ground running when they get here and put their student and work visas to use. 

“They’re a self-selected population,” Kim Nichols, an executive with the African Services Committee, explained. “They have to be the most ambitious and have the means to get here—at least one plane ticket—and a fearlessness about coming to a new place.”


Then there’s the obligatory analysis that looks into how African-born black immigrants are faring in the U.S., and how they’re taking advantage of socioeconomic-climbing resources in comparison with U.S.-born blacks. A recent survey “found that 30 percent of African-born blacks in [New York City] had a college degree, compared with 22 percent of native-born blacks.”

The Times took it one step further and pitted the progress of New York’s African immigrants against its Caribbean-born blacks and nonblack immigrants, too. The 30 percent of African-born blacks who graduated from college trumped the 18 percent of Caribbean-born blacks who did, as well as the 19 percent of nonblack immigrants who did.


Read more at the New York Times.

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