The New African Migration

Image source: Pew Research Center

by James A. Bacon

While the United States indulges in an orgy of introspection over the 400th anniversary of enslaved Africans arriving on the shores of Virginia, it might be worthwhile reminding ourselves that that was then, and this is now. It may have escaped the notice of the New York Times, but the country has changed.

Africans are coming voluntarily to the United States by the tens of thousands every year. And, in an irony of ironies according to a 2017 Pew Research Center report, African immigrants are most likely to live in the South — 39% reside in the former center of slavery compared to 25% in the Northeast, and much smaller percentages in the Midwest and West. Virginia, by the way is one of seven states with African-born populations of more than 100,000.

Historians estimate that 400,000 enslaved Africans came to North America during the 200-year period in which the trans-Atlantic slave trade was practiced in the English colonies and the newly independent United States. Pew estimates that 2 million Africans (the vast majority of whom are from sub-Saharan countries) have emigrated to the U.S. since 1990. Americans need to be honest about the nation’s past of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and discrimination. But we also need to be honest about the nation that we have become. America is a land of opportunity for all people of all races and ethnicities.

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15 responses to “The New African Migration

  1. Good Lord – we’re comparing people who were brought here as slaves in chains and sold like property to modern-day immigrants…as if they are “connected” in some way…. because of color or geographic origin.

    re: ” But we also need to be honest about the nation that we have become. America is a land of opportunity for all people of all races and ethnicities.”

    Actually – ” “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet,”

    Make no mistake – attitudes about immigration have changed with respect to more than a few people who don’t even want LEGAL immigration because it ” takes away our jobs and affordable housing, health care, etc”… that “opportunity” is no longer proffered..


    • There is an exercise in SAT exams, as I recall, that asks the reader to ascertain the key point of a particular passage. The key point of this post appears in the first paragraph: “The country has changed” since the days of the slave trade.

      One of two things appears to be true, Larry. Either the key point of the post eluded you and your response is a total non sequitur, or you do NOT believe that the country has fundamentally changed since the days of the African slave trade. I’m not sure which interpretation is correct. Perhaps you could elucidate.

  2. No idea this was an SAT exam question. Do we still think in those terms at our old age? Wow

  3. That is 2015 data. What happened a year later? We elected the most openly nativist president in decades, if not a century, a modern Know-Nothing. He would call many of those countries s*#@&^#s. It is now clear that his hostility to illegal immigration also extends to much of the legal immigration going on. It was a key message for him in 2016 and will be again in 2020. This is a history that isn’t even history, it’s repeating right in front of us.

    Tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breath free? No, send us your energetic, capitalized, educated bourgeois planning to vote Republican….those he’ll take. You may be happy to see that data, that recent African immigration, and it does speak to America as a place of opportunity, but a huge swath of voters is sending a different message. Less change than you think, Jim, much less. The attitudes are not new, never went away, and now they are being opened to the air like Pandora’s Box.

    The point of the post does not elude us. The point of the post is self-delusion. This was and is Trump’s number one theme because he knows how widely it resonates. You can’t point to that data and ignore what has transpired since, a clear voter backlash against immigration.

    • I fail to see what Trump’s immigration policies have to do with my post. Nothing you said changes the facts that millions of Africans would come to the United States if they could.

    • Until we address illegal immigration in a comprehensive way this will continue. Just think if enforcement of copyright law was totally ignored, the journalism industry would be demanding enforcement. We need to crack down on businesses that employ people who aren’t authorized to work here.

    • Steve:

      You should pack some provisions, pay up your life insurance and venture beyond I295. Ok, that was an ad hominem attack. So what? The point remains – have you ever been to the third word? Somalia for example? El Salvador? Modern day Venezuela? I hate to shine a flashlight of reality here but there are %^&* hole countries on this planet. Places where the rule of law doesn’t exist, where war lords govern through murder, intimidation and fear, where molesting young girls is considered just fine and dandy. The Chinese put more than 1m Uighur Muslims in “re-education” camps, including Uighur children. These are Chinese citizens. Is that &*^% hole enough for you?

      Trump thinks illegal immigrants should be deported. So do the governments of every reasonably well run country on Earth. Don’t believe me? Fly to Guatemala and then try to illegally sneak into Mexico. You think you’ll get a warm and fuzzy reception? Jesus, that’s naive. You’ll get to meet the Mexican National Guard, spend time in a Mexican jail that makes Sing Sing look like a Mariott and then be thrown out on your ass. I guess the Mexicans are nativist too.

      Spare me the “Trump nativist” bull**** of the Richmond elite. The City of Richmond is 2.6% Hispanic or Latino. Henrico County – 6%. Chesterfield County – 7.2%. Meanwhile, Fairfax County – 15.58%, Arlington – 15.4%, Prince William County – 20.3%.

      How many of the hispanics in NoVa are illegal – I don’t know and neither do you. But nobody doubts it’s a large number. If the power structure in Richmond wants to stop enforcing America’s immigration laws – fine. Then you pay for the ESOL education and other public benefits incurred by illegal immigrants coming to NoVa. Put your money where your mouth is and you can call Trump nativist all you want.

      I have a friend named Genovava and another named Jose. Naturalized US citizens. Either one of them will lend you their MAGA hats. Both will help explain to you why countries have immigration laws and why they should be enforced. You can call them Nativists if you’d like. I just wouldn’t do so to Jose’s face. He’s been a hard ass since we played football together in high school. And yes, he was our kicker. And a hell of a middle linebacker too.

  4. Yeah, yeah, I’m a bully, Reed. Except when you agree with me…that too is a cheap ad hominem escape.

    But a curious thing, which I can see as administrator. Jim’s first “Defense of White America” and perhaps this one have exploded with views through something called “” is listed as a Chinese news website of some kind. Is this hot in China, or on some other interesting specialized Chinese website serving a particular American audience? I must say “nativeapp” is a moniker that raises questions….you are a hero somewhere, Jim. Might want to find out where. It isn’t just the Russians who like to stir up stuff in the ol’ US of A. (Hmm, a bit of further research indicates “nativeapp” may just show up when Toutiao has latched onto some story and started to disseminate it….need a 16 year old to explain this to me…)

  5. ‘Lil old me a bully? Nah. I like to think of these posts as Jim’s personal 1619 project!

  6. DJ, I have very little problem with the efforts to prevent or remove illegal immigrants. But Trump has moved beyond that to hostility toward legal immigration, and there we part company. And the failing countries you are describing are the reason, for good or ill, that our LEGAL immigration system has allowed people to claim refugee status. Is everybody seeking asylum really a refugee? No. Unfortunately the process to sort them has been overwhelmed, and then its paralysis exploited for political gain. TMT is right that some solutions on legal immigration would help.

    You do have me on the travel – no third-world s——e countries for a long time. But hell, this guy is now bullying Denmark. Maybe he thinks Copenhagen is a s——-e city. (I know you wouldn’t….)

    Four years ago the first words of his campaign involved a racist attack that all the Mexicans coming were rapists and murders. If your friends can forget or forgive that, fine, but the moron shooting people in El Paso was not checking citizenship status first….

    • “But hell, this guy is now bullying Denmark.”

      Yeah, its ’bout time. Denmark has been pushing us all in America around, bullied Obama, for years.


    Conflating illegal and legal immigration is wrong. And it’s leading to a lot of anger on both sides.

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