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Nigerian Americans

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Nigerian Americans

Nigerian Americans
Total population
266,204 (2008 American Community Survey)
Regions with significant populations
Mainly in Maryland, New York City, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Chicago metropolitan area
American English, Igbo, Yoruba, Efik, Hausa and various languages of Nigeria
Christianity: (Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism)
Sunni Islam, Animism, Voodoo, Agnosticism, Atheism minorities.

Nigerian Americans are Americans who are of Nigerian ancestry. The first Nigerian Americans arriving to United States were slaves imported to country since the 17th century onwards. Voluntary emigration continued since the 20th century. According to a 2006 American Community Survey, there were about 266,000 U.S. residents claiming Nigerian heritage.

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 population is 140 million. The largest communities of ethnic Nigerians living outside the country are those of the United Kingdom (see Nigerian British) and the United States.



The first people of Nigerian ancestry in what is now the modern United States came as slaves or indentured servants from the 17th century onwards.[1] Calabar, Nigeria, became a major point of export of slaves, from Africa to the Americas, during the 17 and 18th centuries. Most slave ships frequenting this port were English.[2] Most of the slaves of Bight of Biafra - many of them hailed from the Igbo hinterland - were imported to Virginia (which accounted for 60% of the Biafra´s slaves imported to United States, as well most of all slaves of Virginia) and South Carolina (arriving there the 34% of the Biafra´s slaves), surpassing in together the 30.000 slaves hailing from the Bight. These colonies were followed fundamentally by Maryland (where arrived the 4% of the Biafra´s slaves imported to United States, arriving more of 1,000 people of the Bight).

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 Igbo,[3] Yoruba and Hausa. However, also arrived to the current U.S. Nigerian slaves of others ethnic groups such as the Fulani and Edo people. The Igbo were exported mainly to Maryland [4] and Virginia,[5] place where they were the majority of all slaves (in fact, of the 37,000 African slaves that were imported to Virginia from Calabar during the eighteenth century, 30,000 of them were Igbo), importing Igbo people, between other slaves, to Kentucky. According to some historians, the Igbo were also most of the slaves in Maryland,[5] although according others, the most were from Gambia. This group was characterized by rebellion and its high rate of suicide, trying to challenge the slavery to which they were subjected.

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.[6]

After of the slavery abolition in 1865, many modern Nigerian immigrants have come to the United States to pursue educational opportunities in undergraduate and post-graduate institutions. This was possible because in the 60s and 70s of 20 century, after the Biafra War, Nigeria's government funded scholarships for Nigerian students, and many of them were admitted to American universities. While this was happening, there were several military coups, among which there were brief periods of civilian rule. All this caused many Nigerian professionals emigrate, especially doctors, lawyers and academics, who found it difficult to return to Nigeria.[7] 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. 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.


Nigerians in the Diaspora, including in Britain and the United States have become well-known for their educational prowess, as witnessed by the academic accomplishments of many Diaspora Nigerians, such as Paula and Petter Imafidon, nine year-old twins who are the youngest students ever to be admitted to high school in England. The “Wonder Twins” and other members of their family have accomplished incredible rare feats, passing advanced examinations and being accepted into institutions with students twice their age.[8] Similar to England, there exists a large percentage of degree holders among Nigerian Americans. According to census data, almost 40% of Nigerian Americans hold bachelor’s degrees, 17% hold master’s degrees, and 4% hold doctorates, more than any racial group in the nation.[9]

Many cite a combination of factors that have contributed to the large number of educated Nigerians in America. Seeking chances for better job opportunities and economic stability has led many educated Nigerian professionals to migrate to America over the years. Similarly, the Diversity Lottery Program increased the number of Nigerians who were able to receive visas in America in order to study. Finally, Nigerian culture has long emphasized education, placing value on pursuing education as a means to financial success and personal fulfillment.[10] Famous Nigerian Americans in education include Professor Jacob Olupona, a member of the faculty at Harvard College of Arts and Sciences as well as Harvard Divinity School. Migrating to the U.S. from Nigeria over 40 years ago, Professor Olupona has furthered the academic study of traditional African religions, such as the Yoruba traditional religion, Olupona has been a vocal advocate for Nigerian Americans and education initiatives.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13] Other top universities, such as Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Duke and Berkeley, report a similar pattern.[14] As a result, there is a question whether affirmative action programs adequately serve those African Americans who are descendants of American slaves.[13]

Demography and areas of concentrated residence

Currently, basing in DNA studies, is estimates that 80 percent of African Americans (about 35 million) could have some Igbo or Hausa ancestors from Nigeria. So, 60 percent of which, according the historian Douglas B. Chambers, could have at least one Igbo ancestor.[15] The USA has the world's second largest Nigerian community, only behind Nigeria itself. Like other successful immigrant populations in the United States, Nigerian Americans reside in virtually all 50 states. Many Nigerians are also immigrating to Puerto Rico, which a US territory.

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 (southwest suburban Houston), Tarrant (Fort Worth), Dallas (Dallas County includes the city of Dallas, and Travis counties (Travis County includes the city of Austin); having the largest Nigerian American community.

4. Georgia: Cobb, Dekalb, Fulton, Gwinnett County, Georgia counties; the Atlanta metropolitan 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. Nigerian Community of Chicagoland

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.

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.


The Nigerian community is very diverse in the United States in terms of religion. The majority are Christians, with some people that practice Islam.


Many Nigerian organizations have been created in the United States. Some of the more prominent are: The Alliance of Nigerian Organizations in Georgia, USA.,[16] National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations in USA,[17] The Nigerian Association Utah,[18] the Nigerian Ladies Association of Texas (NLAT),[19] the Nigerian American Multi Service Association (NAMSA)[20] and United Nigeria Association of Tulsa.[21]

Alliance of Nigerian Organizations in Georgia, USA. is an organization that tries to satisfy the interests of the community, and represents all Nigeria associations nonprofit in Georgia (such as Nigerian Women Association of Georgia - NWAG-[22]), in tribal issues, ethnic, educational, social, political and economic. Through the ANOG, the Office of Nigerian Consulate in Atlanta reaches the Nigerian community associations.[16] The National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations in USA is an organization that teaches Islam, study the elements of religion, favoring Muslim integration in the United States, creating an Muslim American identity and promotes interpersonal relationships.[17] Nigerian Ladies Association of Texas (NLAT) is an apolitical, non-profit formed by Nigerian women that promote fellowship, community and family values. NLAT looking for ways to improve the lives of its members and their families and contribute to improving the life and development of Nigeria and the United States of America. The association teaches its members on individual rights (especially the rights of women, creating media to promote respect for these rights, to promote equality and peace between the sexes) and establishes job opportunities for Nigerians living in Texas, organizes and provides resources to women and children in Nigeria and the U.S., teaches Nigerian culture to the new generations, working with women's groups in the U.S. and drives prgramas to promote education and health services.[19] and The Nigerian American Multi Service Association (NAMSA) provides services to community members.[20]

Nigerian American associations representing the interests of determinated groups are the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas [23] and Nigerian Nurses Association USA.[24]

See also


External links

  • EveryCulture — Nigerian-Americans
  • Nigerian Village Square
  • Nigerians in America
  • Nigerian-American Community Association (U.S.A.), Inc.
  • Nigerian-American Public Professionals Association
  • Nigerians in America on Gnaija
  • Nigerian Languages for Nigerian Kids Abroad

Template:African immigration to the United States

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