In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section New African Diaspora

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Native-Born African Americans and New African Diaspora Americans

African American Studies New African Diaspora
Heike Raphael-Hernandez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 July 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 June 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190280024-0044


Also called the Second African Diaspora, postcolonial African Diaspora, or Fourth Great Migration, the New African Diaspora in the United States refers to Africans who have moved voluntarily to the United States in large numbers since the latter half of the 20th century. Scholars sometimes talk about three different New African Diasporas, as Africans have moved not only to America, but also to Europe and Asia during this period. Voluntary movements from Africa to the United States have taken place throughout history, yet noticeable numbers, which allow talking about a “new” African diaspora, have occurred only during this specific time frame. According to population statistics, their growing numbers are so significant that it has been noted repeatedly that more Africans have migrated voluntarily to the United States since the 1990s than were forcefully brought to North America as part of the transatlantic slave trade. The New African Diaspora in the United States stems from a variety of factors, such as the Hart-Cellar Immigration Act of 1965, several refugee programs in connection to the Refugee Act of 1980, and educational opportunities at US universities. Specific to their identity as black Americans is the fact that they do not share the collective memory of transatlantic slavery and subsequent Jim Crow discrimination, two legacies that African Americans understand as having shaped their lives in every respect. Common grounds are seen in the joint experience of Eurocentric racism and subsequent colonial exploitation. Those who form part of the New African Diaspora are a highly diverse group regarding their geographical, economic, social, educational, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Their professional visibility in the United States has grown steadily during the last several decades because of their high occupational rates as doctors, lawyers, and faculty members at leading universities, for example. Especially their very noticeable academic presence has led to debates about the overrepresentation of Africans among faculty members as well as students at Ivy League institutions. The high number of professionals who received university degrees in their countries of origin and then left for North America has provoked another debate on the so-called brain drain of African countries. One additional characteristic of especially younger members is their social and financial ability to not only alternate their diasporic homes between North America and western Europe, but also to move to their own or their parents’ African country of origin to either reside there for a short period of time or to settle permanently. Because of this international mobility, a growing number perceives themselves not as diasporic Africans, but as transnational Africans. One small, but still important subgroup of the New African Diaspora includes the members of Asian minorities who were expelled from a variety of African countries during postcolonial political unrests. Examples include Goa-Kenyans or Indian-Ugandans. In their case, scholarship uses the term Double Diaspora.

General Overviews

For an introduction to a more general understanding of 21st-century global migration waves of which the New African Diaspora in the United States is part, Cohen 2008 is a good starting point because the author provides a solid overview of the current global migration patterns and discusses their differences to earlier large-scale migrations. Adepoju 2010 places the specifics of New African migrations into this general global framework. Zeleza 2010 focuses on the differences between the three New African Diasporas in North America, western Europe, and Asia. Specifically with respect to the New African Diaspora in the United States, one sees that public awareness of the strong presence and significant impact of the New African Diaspora on US society came slowly. In 2000, Arthur 2000 still called such individuals invisible sojourners. Excellent general overviews have been published since Arthur 2000. All scholarship cautions that the New African Diaspora should not be read as a homogeneous phenomenon; rather, it should be investigated according to a variety of differentiating aspects. Koser 2003; Konadu-Agyemang, et al. 2006; Okpewho and Nzegwu 2009; and Halter and Johnson 2014 all offer excellent general overviews by paying attention to this diversity aspect. While some topics overlap, all four publications include their own, anthology-specific information about, for example, particular countries or regions, debates regarding the Old African Diaspora in the United States, diasporic usage of new media, immigrant-generational differences, or gender-related concerns. For a discourse on heterogeneous differences, Selasi 2005 is a groundbreaking text; for the first time, a larger public became aware of a growing group of younger Africans for whom Selasi coined the term Afropolitans, who are affluent, highly educated, and highly skilled and who do not lay claim to just one African home country and possibly one additional diasporic country but consider themselves global, transnational Africans. Their professional and personal migratory choices reflect this concept of Afropolitanism.

  • Adepoju, Aderanti, ed. International Migration within, to, and from Africa in a Globalized World. Legon, Ghana: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2010.

    Collection of fourteen essays that address economic, political, and cultural issues that have engendered the growing migration waves of the 21st century; argues that African migration is part of a global phenomenon; not only analyzes the problems for the countries left behind, but also looks at the gains for receiving countries.

  • Arthur, John A. Invisible Sojourners: African Immigrant Diaspora in the United States. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000.

    Provides an overview of historical and sociological data regarding countries of origins and gender issues, employment challenges, identity concerns, and geographic diversion in the United States; serves as a good source for research on earlier arrivals.

  • Cohen, Robin. Global Diasporas: An Introduction. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2008.

    Provides a critical overview of global diaspora studies in relation to the changing meaning of the concept for the new diasporas of the 21st century; discusses concepts such as permanent settlement or permanent return versus transnational diasporas and identities for current international migration patterns.

  • Halter, Marylin, and Violet Showers Johnson. African & American: West Africans in Post-civil Rights America. New York: New York University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814760581.001.0001

    Excellent overview of different challenges throughout the decades; addresses departure concerns, arrival issues in the United States, economic detours, transnational ties, and generational aspects.

  • Konadu-Agyemang, Kwado, Baffour K. Takyi, and John Arthur, eds. The New African Diaspora in North America: Trends, Community Building, and Adaption. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006.

    Collection of sixteen essays; address settlement patterns, employment and education aspects, second-generation identity issues, transnational cultural interventions, interracial and intraracial identity conflicts, and diasporic religious practices.

  • Koser, Khalid, ed. New African Diasporas. London: Routledge, 2003.

    Nine essays that address the heterogeneous nature of the New African Diaspora; deals with a variety of francophone and anglophone diasporic communities in the United States; discusses social, legal, and gender issues in the arrival country.

  • Okpewho, Isidore, and Nkiru Nzegwu, eds. The New African Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

    Collection of twenty-six essays; includes topics such as reasons for departures, current debates about the brain drain, relationships with the Old African Diaspora, identity questions, discussions about race and racism in diasporic spaces, geographical dispersion in North America and western Europe, and the influence of the new media on identity formations. Especially the introduction “Can We ‘Go Home Again’?” provides a good entry point into current debates between the slavery-descended African American community and the New African Diaspora.

  • Selasi, Taiye. “Bye Bye Barbar.” LIP Magazine 5 (March 2005).

    Groundbreaking text for introducing a growing group of younger diasporic Africans; calls them transnational Africans and “Afropolitans”; describes them as affluent, highly educated, and highly skilled African emigrants who do not lay claim to just one African home country and one diasporic country but who consider themselves citizens of a global African diaspora. Reprinted in Callaloo 36.3 (Summer 2013): 528–530.

  • Zeleza, Paul Tiyambe. “African Diasporas: Toward a Global History.” African Studies Review 53.1 (2010): 1–19.

    DOI: 10.1353/arw.0.0274

    Describes the differences of the three New African Diasporas in North America, Europe, and Asia.

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