Our Histories: Southern Africans in America
Voluntary African Immigrants have been coming to the United States of America (USA) since the 1800s. Many of the earliest voluntary immigrants that migrated to the USA from Cape Verde islands in West Africa. They were largely unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled crewmen that worked on the whaling vessels in New England. This began the first wave of voluntary African immigration to the US which lasted until the 1930s.
Following the African independence movements, most of the Africans that traveled were students that went to Europe in search of education. The few who did come to the USA like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria and Dr. Hastings Banda of Malawi came to study and then left. Voluntary Immigration from African picked up again after the 1965 immigration reforms due to a number of push (limited educational opportunities, limited work opportunities, or political unrest) and pull factors (ie academic scholarships).
By the late 1970s African immigrants began to establish a more permanent presence in the USA. In the 1980s, 134,000 African immigrants were admitted to the U.S. In the 1990s that number doubled to 323,000 immigrants. This number tripled in the following decade as Africans continued to migrate to the country.
However, now instead of coming here as temporary visitors, Africans have now began to create communities in their new host countries. As such, Africans became students, professionals, business owners, employees, neighbors and friends. Whilst there are national organizations that have been established based on religion, ethnic group or profession, there is a need to have an organization that unites the region.