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American Afrikans
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Total population
42,020,743 [1]
including 3,091,424 Black in combination with another race
(13.6% of U.S. population)
2010 U.S. Census
Regions with significant populations
Predominantly in the Southern United States and in urban areas across the country
Ebonics American English Louisiana Creole French
Predominantly Protestant (78%)
Largest minorities are Roman Catholics (5%) and Muslims (1%) [2]
Related ethnic groups
Afro-Latin Americans

American Afrikans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans, and formerly as American Negroes) are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Afrika. Most are of West and Central African descent and are descendants of Enslaved Afrikans within the boundaries of the present United States.[3][4] However, some immigrants from Afrikan, Caribbean, Central American or South American nations, or their descendants, may be identified or self-identify with the term.[5]

American Afrikans make up the single largest racial minority in the United States.[6]


African Americans as a percentage of total population, 2000.
U.S. Census map indicating U.S. counties with fewer than 25 black or African-American inhabitants
Percentage of population self-reported as African-American by state in 2010:

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.

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.

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[7]
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.[8] In 2010, 38.9 million Americans identified as "Black or African-American," representing 12.6% of the population. Controversy has surrounded the "accurate" population count of African Americans for decades. The NAACP believed it was under counted intentionally to minimize the significance of the black population in order to reduce their political power base[citation needed].

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,[6] 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.[9] Because many African Americans trace their ancestry to colonial American origins, some simply self-identify as "American".

According to the 2010 US 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 US population, at 2.6 million.[10] Self-reported black immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa also represented 0.9%, at about 2.8 million.[10] 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.[11] 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 US population self-identified as black or "mixed with black".[12] 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.[13] Following lobbying led by the Arab American Institute, a national organization representing Arab Americans, the census bureau also announced in 2014 that it may establish an additional new ethnic category for populations from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab world.[14]

U.S. cities

Almost 58% of African Americans lived in metropolitan areas in 2000. With over 2 million black residents, New York City had the largest black urban population in the United States in 2000, overall the city has a 28% black population. Chicago has the second largest black population, with almost 1.6 million African Americans in its metropolitan area, representing about 18 percent of the total metropolitan population.

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 New Orleans, Louisiana (60%), Baltimore, Maryland (63%) Atlanta, Georgia (54%, see African Americans in Atlanta), Memphis, Tennessee (61%), and Washington, D.C. (50.7%).

The nation's most affluent county with an African-American majority is Prince George's County, Maryland, with a median income of $62,467. Within that county, among the wealthiest communities are Glenn Dale, Maryland and Fort Washington, Maryland. Other affluent predominantly African-American counties include Dekalb County in Georgia, and Charles City County in Virginia. 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.[15]

Seatack is currently the oldest African American community in the United States.[16] It survives today with a vibrant and very active civic community.[17]


By 2000, African Americans had advanced greatly. They still lagged overall in education attainment compared to white or Asian Americans, with 14 percent with four-year and 5 percent with advanced degrees, though it was higher than for other minorities.[18] African Americans attend college at about half the rate of whites, but at a greater rate than Americans of Hispanic origin. More African-American women attend and complete college than men. Black schools for kindergarten through twelfth grade students were common throughout the U.S., and a pattern towards re-segregation is currently occurring across the country.[19]

Historically black colleges and universities remain today which were originally set up when segregated colleges did not admit African Americans. 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.[20]

US Census surveys showed that by 1998, 89 percent of African Americans aged 25 to 29 had completed high school, 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.[21]

The average graduation rate of blacks in the United States is 52%. 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.[22] 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 a 62% of white males graduated 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% white males. In the New York City school district 28% of black males graduate high school compared to 57% of white males. In Newark County[where?] 76% of black males graduated compared to 67% for white males.[22]

In Chicago, Marva Collins, an African-American educator, created a low cost private school specifically for the purpose of teaching low-income African-American children whom the public school system had labeled as being "learning disabled".[23] One article about Marva Collins' school stated,

Working with students having the worst of backgrounds, those who were working far below grade level, and even those who had been labeled as 'unteachable,' Marva was able to overcome the obstacles. News of third grade students reading at ninth grade level, four-year-olds learning to read in only a few months, outstanding test scores, disappearance of behavioral problems, second-graders studying Shakespeare, and other incredible reports, astounded the public.[24]

During the 2006–2007 school year, Collins' school charged $5,500 for tuition, and parents said that the school did a much better job than the Chicago public school system.[25] Meanwhile, during the 2007–2008 year, Chicago public school officials claimed that their budget of $11,300 per student was not enough.[26]

Economic status

The US homeownership rate according to race.[27]

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 marginalization 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.[28] 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.[29]

This graph shows the real median US household income by race: 1967 to 2011, in 2011 dollars.[30]

African Americans have a combined buying power of over $892 billion currently and likely over $1.1 trillion by 2012.[31][32] In 2002, African American-owned businesses accounted for 1.2 million of the US's 23 million businesses.[33] As of 2011 African American-owned business account for approximately 2 million US businesses.[34] Black-owned businesses experienced the largest growth in number of businesses among minorities from 2002 to 2011.[34]

In 2004, African-American men had the third-highest earnings of American minority groups after Asian Americans and non-Hispanic whites.[35]

Twenty-five percent of blacks had white-collar occupations (management, professional, and related fields) in 2000, compared with 33.6% of Americans overall.[36][37] In 2001, over half of African-American households of married couples earned $50,000 or more.[37] 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.[37]

In 2006, the median earnings of African-American men was more than black and non-black American women overall, and in all educational levels.[38][39][40][41][42] 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.[38][43]

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.[38][41][44] 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.[39][40][45]

The US public sector is the single most important source of employment for African Americans.[46] During 2008–2010, 21.2% of all Black workers were public employees, compared with 16.3% of non-Black workers.[46] 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.[46]

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.[46]

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%,[47] while the nationwide rate was 6.5%.[48]

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.[29] 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.[15]

In 2011, it was reported that 72% of black babies were born to unwed mothers.[49] The poverty rate among single-parent black families was 39.5% in 2005, according to Williams, while it was 9.9% among married-couple black families. Among white families, the respective rates were 26.4% and 6% in poverty.[50]


The life expectancy for Black men in 2008 was 70.8 years.[51] Life expectancy for Black women was 77.5 years in 2008.[51] 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.[51] In 1900, White men lived an average of 46.3 years and White women lived an average of 48.3 years.[51] African-American life expectancy at birth is persistently five to seven years lower than European Americans.[52]

Black people have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension than the US average.[51] For adult Black men, the rate of obesity was 31.6% in 2010.[53] For adult Black women, the rate of obesity was 41.2% in 2010.[53] African Americans have higher rates of mortality than does any other racial or ethnic group for 8 of the top 10 causes of death.[54] The cancer incidence rate among African Americans is 10% higher than among European Americans.[55]

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".[56] The report also found that "94% of black victims were killed by blacks."[56]

AIDS is one of the top three causes of death for African-American men aged 25–54 and for African-American women aged 35–44 years. In the United States, African Americans make up about 48% of the total HIV-positive population and make up more than half of new HIV cases. The main route of transmission for women is through unprotected heterosexual sex. African-American women are 19 times more likely to contract HIV than other women.[57]

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.[58] Dr. 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".[58]


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  2. "Pew Forum: A Religious Portrait of African-Americans". The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. January 30, 2009. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  3. 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
  4. Rucker, Walter C. (2006). The river flows on: Black resistance, culture, and identity formation in early America. LSU Press. p. 126. ISBN 0-8071-3109-1.
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  7. This table gives the African-American population in the United States over time, based on U.S. Census figures. (Numbers from years 1920 to 2000 are based on U.S. Census figures as given by the Time Almanac of 2005, p. 377.)
  8. "Time Line of African American History, 1881–1900". Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  9. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  10. 10.0 10.1
  13. "2010 CENSUS PLANNING MEMORANDA SERIES" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  14. "Census Bureau explores new Middle East/North Africa ethnic category". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Black Incomes Surpass Whites in Queens
  16. Rep. Rigell Honors 200+ Years of the Black Community.
  17. SCCL
  18. Issued August 2003: Educational Attainment by race and gender: Census 2000 Brief.
  19. Kozol, J. "Overcoming Apartheid", The Nation. December 19, 2005. p. 26.
  20. Public Information Office, U.S. Census Bureau. High School Completions at All-Time High, Census Bureau Reports. September 15, 2000.
  21. "California". Closing the Achievement Gap. January 22, 2008. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Alonso, Andres A. "Black Male Graduation Rates". The Schott Foundation for Public Education. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  23. "Marva Collins Seminars, Inc". Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  24. "Excerpts from Ordinary Children, Extraordinary Teachers and Marva Collins' Way". Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  25. "Marva Collins School to close". June 5, 2008. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  26. Chicago students skip school in funding protest, Associated Press, September 2, 2008.
  27. "US Census Bureau, homeownership by race". Retrieved 2006-10-06.
  28. "Homeownership Rates by Race and Ethnicity of Householder". Retrieved April 20, 2012.
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  30. DeNavas-Walt, Carmen; Proctor, Bernadette D.; Smith, Jessica C. (September 2012). "Real Median Household Income by Race and Hispanic Origin: 1967 to 2010". Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011 (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. p. 8.
  31. "Report: Affluent African-Americans have 45% of buying power". February 22, 2008. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  32. "Buying Power Among African Americans to Reach $1.1 Trillion by 2012". February 6, 2008. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  33. Minority Groups Increasing Business Ownership at Higher Rate than National Average, Census Bureau Reports U.S. Census Press Release
  34. 34.0 34.1 Tozzi, John (July 16, 2010). "Minority Businesses Multiply But Still Lag Whites". Retrieved April 20, 2012.
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  36. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
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  39. 39.0 39.1 "PINC-03-Part 254". August 29, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
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  41. 41.0 41.1 "PINC-03-Part 135". August 29, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  42. "PINC-03-Part 253". August 29, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  43. "PINC-03-Part 128". August 29, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  44. "PINC-03-Part 133". August 29, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  45. "PINC-03-Part 5". August 29, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  46. 46.0 46.1 46.2 46.3 "Black Workers and the Public Sector", Dr Steven Pitts, University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education, April 4, 2011.
  47. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  48. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  49. WASHINGTON, J. (2010). Blacks struggle with 72 percent unwed mothers rate.
  50. Ammunition for poverty pimps Walter E. Williams, October 27, 2005.
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 51.3 51.4 "Life expectancy gap narrows between blacks, whites", Rosie Mestel, The Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2012.
  52. LaVeist TA (December 2003). "Racial segregation and longevity among African Americans: an individual-level analysis". Health Services Research. 38 (6 Pt 2): 1719–33. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2003.00199.x. PMC 1360970. PMID 14727794.
  53. 53.0 53.1 CDC 2012. Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: 2010, p. 107.
  54. Hummer RA, Ellison CG, Rogers RG, Moulton BE, Romero RR (December 2004). "Religious involvement and adult mortality in the United States: review and perspective". Southern Medical Journal. 97 (12): 1223–30. doi:10.1097/01.SMJ.0000146547.03382.94. PMID 15646761.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  55. American Public Health Association (APHA), Eliminating Health Disparities: Toolkit (2004).[verification needed]
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  57. 58.0 58.1 Alex Altman (17 March 2009). "Epedimic in Washington, D.C." TIME. Time Inc. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
    Sarah Moughty (1 December 2014). "AIDS in Black America: The World's 16th Worst Epidemic". FRONTLINE. PBS. Retrieved 17 November 2014.