Nigerian American

Nigerian Americans are citizens of the United States of America who are or descend from immigrants from Nigeria. Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, approximately one million Nigerians have immigrated in to the United States.

Similar to their proportion of population on the continent of Africa, Nigerians are the single largest contemporary African immigrant group in the United States. Nigeria's official current indigenous population is 140 million. It is estimated that 20 million people of Nigerian descent reside outside Nigeria, with the majority living in the United Kingdom (see Nigerian British) and the United States.[citation needed]



Early history

Slave notice from Williamsburg, Virginia for a runaway "Ibo Negro"

The first people of Nigerian ancestry in what is now modern United States came as slaves or indentured servants from the 17th century onwards.[1] Under conditions in the European colonies, most English masters were not interested in tribal origins, which often were not recorded accurately. After two and three centuries of residence in the United States and the lack of documentation because of enslavement, African Americans have often been unable to track their ancestors to specific ethnic groups or regions of Africa. More to the point, like other Americans, they have become a mixture of many different heritages, although most of the slaves coming from what is now Nigeria are likely to be from the Yorubaland, especially the coastal areas of Badagry and Lagos. [2]

Some Nigerian ethnic groups, such as the Yoruba, and some northern Nigerian ethnic groups, had tribal facial identification marks. These could have assisted a returning slave in relocating his or her ethnic group, but few slaves escaped the colonies. In the colonies, masters tried to dissuade the practice of tribal customs. They also sometimes mixed people of different ethnic groups to make it more difficult for them to communicate and band together in rebellion.[3]

Many modern Nigerian immigrants have come to the United States to pursue educational opportunities in undergraduate and post-graduate institutions. Almost all of these immigrants have come from ethnic groups in the southern part of the country, primarily the Igbo, Yoruba, and Ibibio peoples, including Annang and Efik.[citation needed] Due to adverse economic conditions in Nigeria, some immigrants stayed in the United States and began to raise their children there.

During the mid- to late-1980s, a larger wave of Nigerians immigrated to the United States. This migration was driven by political and economic problems exacerbated by the military regimes of self-styled generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha. The most noticeable exodus occurred among professional and middle-class Nigerians who, along with their children, took advantage of education and employment opportunities in the United States.

Some believe that this exodus has contributed to a "brain-drain" on Nigeria's intellectual resources to the detriment of its future. Since the advent of multi-party democracy in March 1999, the former Nigerian head-of-state Olusegun Obasanjo has made numerous appeals, especially to young Nigerian professionals in the United States, to return to Nigeria to help in its rebuilding effort. Obasanjo's efforts have met with mixed results, as some potential migrants consider Nigeria's socio-economic situation still unstable.[citation needed]


Estimates indicate that a disproportionate percentage of black students at elite universities are immigrants or children of immigrants. Nigerian immigrants have the highest education attainment level in the United States, surpassing every other ethnic group in the country, according to U.S Bureau Census data. [4] Harvard University, for example, has estimated that more than one-third of its black student body consists of recent immigrants or their children, or were mixed race.[5] Other top universities, such as Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Duke and Berkeley, report a similar pattern.[6] As a result, there is a question whether affirmative action programs adequately serve African Americans who are descendants of American slaves.[7]

Areas of concentrated residence

The USA has the world's third largest Nigerian community, only behind Nigeria itself and the United Kingdom, where up to 1 million Nigerians reside[dubious ][citation needed]. Like other successful immigrant populations in the United States, Nigerian Americans reside in virtually all 50 states.

Sizeable communities are concentrated in the following states and jurisdictions (in order of size):

1. Maryland: Prince Georges and Baltimore (Not Including Baltimore City) counties comprise the 3rd largest Nigerian American community; also Howard and Montgomery counties.

2. New York: All boroughs of New York City, the 2nd largest Nigerian-American community; plus Nassau and Westchester counties.

3. Texas: Harris (esp. the city of Houston), Fort Bend, Tarrant, Dallas, and Travis counties(which makes up the city of Austin); having the largest Nigerian American community.

4. Georgia: Cobb, Dekalb, Fulton, Gwinnett counties; the Atlanta area is the 5th largest Nigerian-American community.

5. New Jersey: Hudson, Essex, Bergen, Union and Middlesex counties, with a large proportion of Nigerians living in Newark. In recent years, many Nigerian Americans have left New Jersey.

6. Illinois: Cook County (esp. the city of Chicago).

7. California: Los Angeles (city and county), San Bernardino (primarily the city of San Bernardino), Orange, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno counties; and the San Francisco Bay Area: Solano, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Many Nigerians along with Kenyan and Ethiopian American groups live in the Fairfax District and the Crenshaw district of L.A., as well in West Oakland with other African and Yemeni immigrants.[citation needed]

8. Ohio: Hamilton and Montgomery counties, with Columbus being the 6th largest Nigerian-American community.

9. Michigan: Metro Detroit (with significant numbers of Nigerian Americans in Flint, Michigan and Lansing, Michigan).

10. Virginia: Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun Counties, it has the 4th largest Nigerian-American community.

African Immigrants (U.S.) Ancestries in the 2000 US Census[8]
Ancestry 1990 1990% of US population 2000 2000% of US population Percent change from 1990 to 2000
Flag of Nigeria.svg Nigerian 35,300 negligible (no data) 165,481 negligible (no data) 368.8%
Flag of Ethiopia.svg Ethiopian 27,200 negligible (no data) 86,918 negligible (no data) 219.6%
Flag of Ghana.svg Ghanaian 14,900 negligible (no data) 49,944 negligible (no data) 235.2%
Flag of South Africa.svg South Africa 15,690 negligible (no data) 45,569 negligible (no data) 190.4%
Other 136,910 negligible (no data) 292,088 negligible (no data) 113.3%
TOTAL 230,000 0.1% 640,000 0.2% 166.9%

See also


  1. ^ The Slave Trade
  2. ^ "Ethnic Identity in the Diaspora and the Nigerian Hinterland". Toronto, Canada: York university. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  3. ^ "Ethnicity and the Slave Trade: 'Lucumi' and 'Nago' as Ethnonyms in West Africa"
  4. ^ Chronicle Chronicle [1] accessed 26 Apr 2011. Bachelor's and Beyond,
  5. ^ accessed 26 Jun 2011
  6. ^ Berkeley, SF Chronicle
  7. ^ New York Times accessed 26 Jun 2011
  8. ^ Brittingham, Angela. Ancestry 2000:Census Brief. 2004. October 30, 2006. [2]

External links

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