Senegambia, the Gold Coast, and the Bight of Benin

Of the approximately 388,000 Africans who landed in America, almost 92,000 (24 percent) were Senegambians. In the early decades of immigration to the Chesapeake region before 1700, there were more immigrants from Senegambia (almost 6,000) than from the Bight of Biafra (about 5,000), and they totaled about 31,000 by the end of the migration, representing almost a third of all arrivals from Senegambia. About 45,000 Senegambians were settled in the coastal Low Country of the Carolinas and Georgia, where they constituted 21 percent of African immigrants. Senegambians were also prominent among African immigrants in the northern colonies, accounting for about 28 percent of arrivals, or over 7,000 people. Almost 9,000 Senegambians — often identified as Bambara or Mandingo — went to the Gulf region, especially to Louisiana, where they constituted about 40 percent of the population arriving from Africa.

Hence, people from Senegambia were prominent everywhere in the United States, much more so than virtually anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere, although there were also considerable numbers of Senegambians in the French Caribbean islands and in French Guiana. Senegambia was strongly influenced by Islam, more so than any other region of origin, which means that many enslaved Africans in the United States had been exposed to Islam, more so proportionately than in the rest of the Americas.

There were many Muslims in Brazil in the nineteenth century, mostly in Bahia, but they came from the central Sudan (northern Nigeria and adjacent areas), unlike those who were sent to the United States. Muslims were clearly present in both the low country of Carolina and Georgia and in the Tidewater region of Virginia and Maryland. Adult Muslim males stand out prominently, while there are very few references to Muslim women. This reflects what is known about the slave trade originating in the interior of West Africa, which was composed almost entirely of males.

Another 15 to 20 percent of Africans were originally from the Gold Coast and neighboring parts of the Windward Coast (Ivory Coast). Twi was their common language, and most people were identified as Akan. They were concentrated in the Carolinas and Georgia, where they amounted to perhaps 18-20 percent of immigrants, or up to 70,000 people. In addition, they were also found in the Chesapeake, representing as many as 15-20,000 people, or 12-15 percent of total immigration there. Africans from the Gold Coast were also prominent in the northern colonies, especially New England, because the slave traders of Rhode Island concentrated their activities there, accounting for the enforced immigration of some 7,000 people, or 30 percent of the total arriving there.

Some parts of Africa were important in the overall transatlantic slave trade to the Americas but were under-represented in the United States. Noticeably absent or of minor importance were Yoruba, Ewe/Fon/Allada/Mahi (people who spoke the so-called Gbe languages), and other people, including Muslims, brought from the far interior of the "Slave Coast" or Bight of Benin. This region was one of the most important sources of Africans for the Atlantic crossing, and people from the Bight of Benin were particularly prominent in the French Caribbean, Cuba, Trinidad, and Brazil.