Black West Indians in the United States - Orientation

Identification. Blacks in the United States of West Indian ancestry come mainly either from the British West Indies (Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Windward Islands) or from Haiti, in the French West Indies. Blacks from Guyana, on the northeast coast of South America, are also classified as British West Indians. The majority of those from the British West Indies are from Jamaica. The History of Black West Indians and Haitians and their Experiences in the United States differ from each other and also from that of African-Americans descended from slaves brought directly to North America from Africa. Blacks in the West Indies are descendants of African slaves brought to the Caribbean to work on sugar plantations in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Blacks make up 80 percent of the population of the British West Indies and 90 percent of the population of Haiti. Other major ethnic groups on the British islands are the English, Chinese, Asian Indians, and Syrians. Contact between the Black slaves and English rulers has produced unique cultural and linguistic forms in the Black Caribbean cultures as well as people of mixed White and Black ancestry, leading to the use of the term mulatto to identity segments of the population.

Location. British West Indian Blacks in the United States live primarily in cities on the east coast, from New York south to the southern Florida coast, with concentrations in New York City, southeastern Florida, and Hartford, Connecticut. There is also a growing Jamaican community in Los Angeles. About 50 percent of Jamaicans live in New York City.

Demography. According to the 1980 census, there were 223,652 Americans of Jamaican ancestry, 66,062 of Trinidadian, Tobagonian and Guyanese ancestry, and 39,513 of other British West Indian ancestry. In addition, there were 48,592 Americans of Black British West Indian and other ethnic ancestry. All these figures are undercounts, as a large though undetermined number of Black West Indians are undocumented immigrants.

Linguistic Affiliation. The West Indies are officially English-speaking, but actually display a post-Creole linguistic continuum. On the islands, indigenous Creole languages developed through contact between the English plantation owners and Black slaves, with elements from Asian languages added later in some places. Speech varies according to social class and social context from Creole to Standard English. Black West Indians generally speak English with a British accent.

User Contributions:

Elizabeth Miller
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Apr 8, 2015 @ 6:18 pm
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Nov 16, 2015 @ 7:19 pm
My father's family is West Indian, born on the islands of St Croix and St . Thomas. I would like to learn more about my family.

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