Nigerian Americans
Total population
380,785 total, 2016
277,027 Nigerian-born, 2012-2016
Regions with significant populations
Texas, Maryland, New York, California, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Minnesota,

American English, Nigerian English, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Edo, Ibibio-Anaang-Efik, Esan, Urhobo, Isoko, Idoma, Ijaw, Fulani, Kalabari, Igala, Ikwerre, Tiv, Ebira, Nembe, Etsako, Itsekiri, Nupe, Nigerian Pidgin
Nigerian languages and various languages of Nigeria


Christianity (Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism)
Sunni Islam, Animism, West African Vodun, agnosticism, atheism minorities

Nigerian Americans are Americans who are of Nigerian ancestry. The 2016 American Community Survey estimates that 380,785 US residents report Nigerian ancestry.[1] The 2012-2016 ACS estimates that 277,027 American residents were born in Nigeria.[2]

Nigeria is both the most populous country in Africa—186.0 million as of 2016[3]—and the African country of origin with the most migrants in the United States, as of 2013.[4]

History[edit | edit source]

Slavery (17th century – 1865)[edit | edit source]

The first people of Nigerian ancestry in what is now the modern United States were imported as slaves or indentured laborers from the 17th century onwards.[5] 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.[6] Most of the slaves of Bight of Biafra – many of whom 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). Under conditions in the European colonies, most English masters were not interested in the tribal origins, and often did not bother to record them at all, or if they did, 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 ancestries. Most slaves who came from Nigeria were likely to have been Igbo,[7] Yoruba, and Hausa. Other ethnic groups, such as the Fulani and Edo people were also captured and transported to the colonies in the New World. The Igbo were exported mainly to Maryland[8] and Virginia.[9] They comprised the majority of all slaves in Virginia during the 18th century: of the 37,000 African slaves imported to Virginia from Calabar during the eighteenth century, 30,000 were Igbo. In the next century, people of Igbo descent were taken with settlers who moved to Kentucky. According to some historians, the Igbo also comprised most of the slaves in Maryland,[9] although other sources say that most there were from Gambia. This group was characterized by rebellion and its high rate of suicide, as the people resisted 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.[10]

Modern Immigration[edit | edit source]

According to the United Census Bureau, 4 percent of Nigerians hold the Ph.D. degree compared to 1% of the general US population. 17% of Nigerians hold the master's degree and a whopping 37% have the bachelor's degree. Since the mid-20th century particularly, after Nigeria gained independence, many modern Nigerian immigrants have come to the United States to pursue educational opportunities in undergraduate and post-graduate institutions. In the 1960s and 1970s 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, interspersed with brief periods of civilian rule. The instability resulted in many Nigerian professionals emigrating, especially doctors, lawyers and academics, who found it difficult to return to Nigeria.[11]

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.

This exodus contributed to a "brain-drain" of 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.

Education[edit | edit source]

According to the 2016 American Community Survey, 62% of Nigerian Americans age 25 and higher hold bachelor's degrees (or higher) and 29% hold graduate or professional degrees.[12] Of 75 national origins listed, only Iranians, Russians, and Bulgarians have a higher share with graduate or professional degrees. Census data reveals that Nigerian Americans are the most educated immigrant group in the US, surpassing even East Asians.[13]

Nigerian culture has long emphasized education, placing value on pursuing education as a means to financial success and personal fulfillment.[14] 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 US from Nigeria more than 40 years ago, Professor Olupona has furthered the academic study of traditional African religions, such as the Yoruba traditional religion, and has been a vocal advocate for Nigerian Americans and education initiatives.[15]

A disproportionate percentage of black students at highly selective top universities are immigrants or children of immigrants. 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 of mixed-race parentage.[16] Other top universities, including Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Rice, Duke and Berkeley, report a similar pattern.[17] As a result, there is a question as to whether affirmative action programs adequately reach their original targets: African Americans who are descendants of American slaves and their discriminatory history in the US.[16]

According to the 2016 Open Doors report, the top five U.S. institutions with the largest student population of Nigerian descent (in no particular order) are Texas Southern University, University of Houston, University of Texas at Arlington, University of North Texas, and Houston Community College.[18] According to the 2017 report, 11,710 Nigerian immigrants studied in the U.S. in the 2016-17 academic year, the 12th highest country of origin and highest of any African country.[19] 4,239 of these (36%) are pursuing graduate degrees.[20]

Demography and areas of concentrated residence[edit | edit source]

As of 2013, the World Bank estimated that 252,172 Nigerian migrants live in the US. This is 23% of all Nigerian migrants, the most of any destination country. Nigerian migrants represent 0.5% of all migrants in the US, the 32nd highest of all US source countries.[4]

Based on DNA studies, an estimated 80 percent of African Americans (about 35 million) could have some Igbo or Hausa ancestry. Therefore, 60 percent of them, according to historian Douglas B. Chambers, could have at least one Igbo ancestor.[21]

US states with the largest Nigerian populations[edit | edit source]

The 2016 American Community Survey estimates that 380,785 US residents report Nigerian ancestry.[1]

The 2012-2016 ACS[2] estimates that 277,027 American residents were born in Nigeria. It also estimates that these states have the highest Nigerian-born population:

  1. Texas 60,173
  2. Maryland 31,263
  3. New York 29,619
  4. California 23,302
  5. Georgia 19,182
  6. Illinois 15,389
  7. New Jersey 14,780
  8. Florida 8,274
  9. Massachusetts 6,661
  10. Pennsylvania 6,371

Religious demographics[edit | edit source]

In terms of religion the Nigerian community is split, with the majority of Nigerians practicing Christianity (70%) and many others following Islam (23%) and other religions (7%).

Traditional attire[edit | edit source]

Historically, Nigerian fashion incorporated many different types of fabrics. Cotton has been used for over 500 years for fabric-making in Nigeria. Silk (called tsamiya in Hausa, sanyan in Yoruba, akpa-obubu in Igbo, and sapar ubele in Edo) is also used.[22] Perhaps the most popular fabric used in Nigerian fashion is Dutch wax print, produced in the Netherlands. The import market for this fabric is dominated by the Dutch company Vlisco,[23] which has been selling its Dutch wax print fabric to Nigerians since the late 1800s, when the fabric was sold along the company's oceanic trading route to Indonesia. Since then, Nigerian and African patterns, color schemes, and motifs have been incorporated into Vlisco's designs to become a staple of the brand.[24]

Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups and as a result, a wide variety of traditional clothing styles. In the Yoruba tradition, women wear an iro (wrapper), buba (loose shirt) and gele (head-wrap).[25] The men wear buba (long shirt), sokoto (baggy trousers), agbada (flowing robe with wide sleeves) and fila (a hat).[26] In the Igbo tradition, the men's cultural attire is Isiagu (a patterned shirt), which is worn with trousers and the traditional Igbo men's hat called Okpu Agwu. The women wear a puffed sleeved blouse, two wrappers and a headwrap.[27] Hausa men wear barbarigas or kaftans (long flowing gowns) with tall decorated hats. The women wear wrappers and shirts and cover their heads with hijabs (veils).[28]

Among Nigerian Americans, traditional Nigerian attire remains very popular. However, because the fabric is often hard to acquire outside of Nigeria, traditional attire is not worn on an everyday basis but rather, reserved for special occasions such as weddings, Independence Day celebrations and birthday ceremonies. For weddings, the fabric used to sew the outfit of the bride and groom is usually directly imported from Nigeria or bought from local Nigerian traders and then taken to a local tailor who then sews it into the preferred style. Due to the large number of Nigerians living in America and the cultural enrichment that these communities provide to non-Nigerians, the traditional attire has been adopted in many parts of the country as a symbol of African ethnicity, for example, clothes worn during Kwanzaa celebrations are known to be very influenced by Nigerian traditional attire. In recent years, the traditional fabric has attracted many admirers especially among celebrities such as Solange Knowles[29] and most notably Erykah Badu. On the fashion runway, Nigerian American designers like Boston-born Kiki Kimanu[30] are able to combine the rich distinct colours of traditional attire with Western styles to make clothes that are highly sought after by young Nigerian professionals and Americans alike.[31]

Nigerian American ethnic groups[32][edit | edit source]

Igbo American[edit | edit source]

Igbo Americans are people in the United States that maintain an identity of a varying level of Igbo ethnic group that now call the United States their chief place of residence (and may also have US citizenship). Many came to the US following effects of the Biafran War (1967–1970). The Igbos used to live in small clans during pre colonial era.

Yoruba American[edit | edit source]

Yoruba Americans are Americans of Yoruba descent. The Yoruba people (Lua error in Module:Unicode_data at line 468: attempt to index field 'scripts' (a boolean value).) are an ethnic group originating in southwestern Nigeria and southern Benin in West Africa.The first Yoruba people who arrived to the United States were imported as slaves from Nigeria and Benin during the Atlantic slave trade. This ethnicity of the slaves was one of the main origins of present-day Nigerians who arrived to the United States, along with the Igbos. In addition, native slaves of current Benin hailed from peoples such as Nago (Yoruba subgroup, although exported mainly by Spanish, when Louisiana was Spanish), Ewe, Fon and Gen. Many slaves imported to the modern United States from Benin were sold by the King of Dahomey, in Whydah.

The native tongue of the Yoruba people is spoken principally in Nigeria and Benin, with communities in other parts of Africa, Europe and the Americas. A variety of the language, Lucumi, is the liturgical language of the Santería religion of the Caribbean.

Organizations[edit | edit source]

Nigerian-American organizations in the US include:

  • Houston, Texas-based Nigerian Union Diaspora (NUD)
  • Houston, Texas-based Nigerian-American Multicultural Council, NAMC ([33]
  • Washington, DC-based Nigerian-American Council or Nigerian-American Leadership Council[34]
  • The Alliance of Nigerian Organizations in Atlanta, Georgia[35] National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations in USA;[36]
  • The Nigerian Association Utah[37]
  • The Nigerian Ladies Association of Texas (NLAT)[38]
  • The Nigerian American Multi Service Association, NAMSA ([39]
  • First Nigeria Organisation[40]
  • United Nigeria Association of Tulsa[41]
  • The Alliance of Nigerian Organizations in Georgia is an organization that tries to satisfy the interests of the community, and represents all Nigeria nonprofit associations in the state (such as Nigerian Women Association of Georgia – NWAG-[42]), in tribal issues, ethnic, educational, social, political and economic. Through the ANOG, the Office of Nigerian Consulate in Atlanta reaches the Nigerian community associations.[35]
  • The National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations is an organization that teaches Islam, study the elements of religion, favoring Muslim integration in the US, creating a Muslim American identity and promoting interpersonal relationships.[36]
  • Nigerian Ladies Association of Texas (NLAT) is an apolitical, non-profit formed by Nigerian women that promote fellowship, community and family values. NLAT is 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 US, teaches Nigerian culture to the new generations, working with women's groups in the US and drives programs to promote education and health services.[38] and the Nigerian American Multi Service Association (NAMSA) provides services to community members.[39]
  • NNAUSA is an organization for the Ngwa Diaspora in America[43]

Nigerian American associations representing the interests of determined groups include:

  • The Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas[44] (ANPA)
  • Nigerian Nurses Association USA[45]
  • Ogbakor Ikwerre USA (OIUSA), Inc. is a non–profit organization of Ikwerre indigenes residing in the United States of America and Canada. We are committed to the survival and prosperity of the Ikwerre people and the entire Ikwerre community. OIUSA is an incorporate body that was founded on July 6, 1996 in Los Angeles, California. The organization is incorporated in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, but headquartered in Los Angeles. Membership comprises individuals and associations that subscribe to OIUSA vision. Members come from all over the 50 states in the US and Canada

Notable people[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ "Nigeria – The Slave Trade". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  6. ^ Sparks, Randy J. (2004). The Two Princes of Calabar: An Eighteenth-century Atlantic Odyssey. Harvard University Press. p. 39. ISBN 0-674-01312-3. 
  7. ^ "Ethnic Identity in the Diaspora and the Nigerian Hinterland". Toronto, Canada: York university. Retrieved 2008-11-23. ""As is now widely known, enslaved Africans were often concentrated in specific places in the diaspora...USA (Igbo)"" 
  8. ^ "Languages in America #25 along with Kru and Yoruba". U.S.ENGLISH Foundation, Inc. Archived from the original on 2009-05-25. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  9. ^ a b Chambers, Douglas B. (March 1, 2005). Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia. University Press of Mississippi. p. 23. ISBN 1-57806-706-5. 
  10. ^ "Ethnicity and the Slave Trade: 'Lucumi' and 'Nago' as Ethnonyms in West Africa",
  11. ^ "Nigerians in Chicago". Posted by Charles Adams Cogan and Cyril Ibe, Encyclopedia of Chicago; Retrieved May 2, 2013
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Adenle, Tola. "Why do immigrant kids perform so well in America (2): The Nigerian example". Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  15. ^ Alabi Garba, Kabir. "Ambali... Pursuing human capital development agenda". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Rimer, Sara; Arenson, Karen W. (June 24, 2004). "Top Colleges Take More Blacks, but Which Ones?". New York Times. Retrieved 26 Jun 2011. 
  17. ^ Johnson, Jason B. (February 22, 2005). "Shades of gray in black enrollment: Immigrants' rising numbers a concern to some activists". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Southern Miss history professor made chief in Nigerian royal lineage". University of Southern Mississippi. April 15, 2005. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  22. ^ "Textile". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Yoruba Clothing". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  26. ^ "The Yoruba tribe of Nigeria and their clothes rich in colors and textures". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  27. ^ "Umu Igbo Alliance". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  28. ^ "Welcome to Amlap Publishing". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  29. ^ KaKKi. "KaKKi: Solange Knowles – African Prints". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ "Kiki Kamanu". Kiki Kamanu. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  32. ^ 2017
  33. ^ "Nigerian-American Multicultural Council". 
  34. ^ Nigerian-American Council
  35. ^ a b Itoro E. Akpan-Iquot. "Home Page – Alliance of Nigerian Organizations in Georgia, USA (ANOGUSA)". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  36. ^ a b * National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations in USA
  37. ^ "Association of Nigerians in Utah, USA". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  38. ^ a b "Nigerian Ladies Association of Texas". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  39. ^ a b "NAMSA – Nigerian American Multi Service Association". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  40. ^ "Nigerians in Chicago Rise Against Boko Haram". Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  41. ^ United Nigeria Association of Tulsa
  42. ^ "Nigerian Women Association of Georgia – NWAG". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  43. ^ Ngwa National.
  44. ^ Donia Robinson/Gold Star Web Sites, LLC. "Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas – Home". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  45. ^ "Nigerian Nurses Association USA – Home". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 

Template:African immigration to the United States

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