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Notable African Americans

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  • Curt Anderson
    Curt Anderson is an American politician, lawyer and former broadcast journalist. He was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1983, is the chairman of the Baltimore City Delegation, and p...
  • Shani Davis
    Shani Davis is an Olympic champion speedskater from the United States. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Davis became the first Black athlete (from any nation) to win a gold medal in an in...
  • Mahershala Ali
    Mahershalalhashbaz "Mahershala" Ali (pronunciation: /məˈhɜːrʃələ/; born Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore; February 16, 1974) is an American actor and rapper. Ali began his career as a regular on series suc...
  • Mia Love, U.S. Congress
    LOVE, Ludmya Bourdeau (Mia), a Representative from Utah; born in Brooklyn, Kings County, N.Y., on December 6, 1975; graduated from Norwalk High School, Norwalk, Conn.; B.A., University of Hartford, W...
  • Gladys Knight
    Gladys is an American recording artist, songwriter and actress. A seven-time Grammy Award-winner, she is best known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both the Motown and Buddah ...

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.