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Notable African Americans

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  • Alex Manly (1866 - 1944)
    Alex Manly was born near Raleigh in 1866. Family tradition maintains that his father was Charles Manly, who served as governor of North Carolina from 1849 to 1851. There is some confusion about Manly...
  • By Carl Van Vechten - Van Vechten Collection at Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=254356
    Marian Anderson (1897 - 1993)
    Marian Anderson b. February 27, 1897 d. April 8, 1993 Marian Anderson was an African-American contralto and one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century. Most of her singing career was...
  • Katherine Dunham (1909 - 2006)
    Katherine Mary Dunham (also known as Kaye Dunn , June 22, 1909 – May 21, 2006) was an African-American dancer, choreographer, author, educator, anthropologist, and social activist. Dunham had one of ...
  • Oscar Micheaux (1884 - 1951)
    Oscar Devereaux Micheaux (January 2, 1884 – March 25, 1951) was an African-American author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 films. Although the short-lived Lincoln Motion Pictu...
  • A. D. King (1930 - 1969)
    Alfred Daniel Williams King (July 30, 1930 – July 21, 1969), known as A. D. King, was the younger brother of Martin Luther King, Jr., the famed leader of the American civil-rights movement. Like his ol...

African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group of Americans with total or partial ancestry from any of the Black racial groups of Africa. The term may also be used to include only those individuals who are descended from enslaved Africans. As a compound adjective the term is usually hyphenated as African-American.

Black and African Americans constitute the third largest racial and ethnic group in the United States (after White Americans and Hispanic and Latino Americans). Most African Americans are of West and Central African descent and are descendants of enslaved peoples within the boundaries of the present United States. On average, African Americans are of 73.2–80.9% West African, 18–24% European, and 0.8–0.9% Native American genetic heritage, with large variation between individuals. According to US Census Bureau data, African immigrants generally do not self-identify as African American. The overwhelming majority of African immigrants identify instead with their own respective ethnicities (~95%). Immigrants from some Caribbean, Central American and South American nations and their descendants may or may not also self-identify with the term.

African-American history starts in the 16th century, with peoples from West Africa forcibly taken as slaves to Spanish America, and in the 17th century with West African slaves taken to English colonies in North America. After the founding of the United States, black people continued to be enslaved, with four million denied freedom from bondage prior to the Civil War. Believed to be inferior to white people, they were treated as second-class citizens. The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited U.S. citizenship to whites only, and only white men of property could vote. These circumstances were changed by Reconstruction, development of the black community, participation in the great military conflicts of the United States, the elimination of racial segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement which sought political and social freedom. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first African American to be elected president of the United States.