The Creation of the African Diaspora

The most enduring consequences of the migration for the migrants themselves and for the receiving communities were the development of racism and the corresponding emergence and sustenance of an African-American community, with particular cultural manifestations, attitudes, and expressions. The legacy is reflected in music and art, with a significant influence on religion, cuisine, and language. The cultural and religious impact of this African immigration shows that migrations involve more than people; they also involve the culture of those people. "American" culture is not "European" or "African" but its own form, created in a political and economic context of inequality and oppression in which diverse ethnic and cultural influences both European and African (and in some contexts, Native American) can be discerned.

Undoubtedly, the transatlantic slave trade was the defining migration that shaped the African Diaspora. It did so through the people it forced to migrate, and especially the women who were to give birth to the children who formed the new African-American population. These women included many who can be identified as Igbo or Ibibio but almost none who were Yoruba, Fon, or Hausa. "Bantu" women, from matrilineal societies, also constituted a considerable portion of the African immigrants, and it appears that females from Sierra Leone and other parts of the Upper Guinea Coast were also well represented. These were the women who gave birth to African-American culture and society.

Paul E. Lovejoy
Distinguished Research Professor
Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History
York University