Historic Black American expat communities

1. Paris, France


African Americans, who are largely descended from Africans of the American colonial era, have lived and worked in France since the 1800s. Unofficial figures indicate that up to 50,000 free blacks emigrated to Paris from Louisiana in the decades after Napoleon sold the territory to the United States in 1803.[1] Paris saw the beginnings of an African-American community in the aftermath of World War I when about 200,000 were brought over to fight. Ninety per cent of these soldiers were from the American South.[1] Many black GIs decided to stay in France after having been well received by the French, and others followed them. France was viewed by many African Americans as a welcome change from the widespread racism in the United States. It was during this time that jazz was introduced to the French and black culture was born in Paris. African American musicians, artists, and Harlem Renaissance writers found 1920s Paris ready to embrace them with open arms. Montmartre became the center of the small community, with jazz clubs such as Le Grand Duc, Chez Florence and Bricktop’s thriving in Paris. World War II brought all the fanfare to an abrupt halt. The Nazi invasion of Paris in June 1940 meant suppression of the “corrupt” influence of jazz in the French capital and danger of imprisonment for African Americans choosing to remain in the city. Most Americans, black as well as white, left Paris at this time.

The political upheavals surrounding theAfrican-American Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War protests in the United States were mirrored by civil unrest in France. African-American journalist William Gardner Smith who was also a novelist (i.e., Last of the Conquerors), who worked for the French news service Agence France-Presse, reported the events of the student uprising in May 1968. Many blacks supported this movement, which escalated into a virtual shutdown of the entire country of France. Once order was restored however, a notable increase in repressive tendencies was observed in the French police and immigration authorities. In addition, the presence of newly arrived enclaves of blacks from many African andCaribbean nations offer African Americans the chance to experience new forms of black culture .[2]

2. Liberia


The love of liberty brought us here”, was the motto of some 13,000 persons who crossedthe Atlantic to create new settlements on theGrain Coast of West Africa between 1817 and 1867 with the aid of the American Colonization Society. The early settlers practiced their Christian faith, sometimes incombination with traditional African religious beliefs. They spoke an African American Vernacular English, and few ventured into the interior or mingled with local African peoples. They developed an Americo-Liberian society, culture and political organization that was strongly influenced by their roots in theUnited States, particularly the country’sSoutheast. Today, the Americo-Liberian population numbers about 150,000. Americo-Liberians were credited for Liberia’s largest and longest economic expansion, especiallyWilliam V. S. Tubman, who did much to promote foreign investment and to bridge the economic, social, and political gaps between the descendants of the original settlers and the inhabitants of the interior.[3] Most of the powerful old Americo-Liberian families fled to the United States in the 1980s after PresidentWilliam Tolbert was assassinated in a military coup.

Making up about 5% of the Liberian population, Americo-Liberians dominated national politics from the founding of the colony until Samuel Doe led a military coup in 1980. There is debate about how Americo-Liberians held on to power for so long. Some attribute it to the fact that divisions were based on “light-skin vs. dark skin”, particularly because the first president was of mixed race, as were numerous immigrants, reflecting the nature of African-American society in the Upper South. Scholars have noted, however, that during the Americo-Liberian reign, the leaders had an array of skin colors and African-European admixture, meaning that theory is unlikely. It is more likely they built their power on their connections to the ACS, familiarity with American culture and economics, and ability to create a network of shared interests. Others believe their long reign was in part due to the Masonic Order of Liberia, a fraternal organization, as opposed to colorism. A marble Masonic Lodge was built in 1867 as one of Monrovia’s most impressive buildings. It was considered a bastion of Americo-Liberian power, and was strong enough to survive the civil war. After years of neglect after the war the Masonic order has repaired the lodge.[4]

In 1980, a violent military coup was led bySamuel Doe. Doe’s tenure as leader of Liberia led to a period of civil wars, resulting in destruction of the country’s economy. In the early 21st century, Liberia has been reduced to the third-most impoverished nation in the world; about 85% of the population lives below the international poverty line.[citation needed]

3. Samana, Dominican Republic



Most of the Samaná Americans are descendants of African American who, beginning in 1824, immigrated to Hispaniola—then under Haitian administration—benefiting from the favorable pro-Blackimmigration policy of president Jean Pierre BoyerJonathas Granville traveled to the U.S. in May-June 1824 in response to a letter thatLoring D. Dewey had sent to Boyer. While in the U.S., Granville met with other abolitionists, like Richard AllenSamuel Cornish, andBenjamin Lundy to organize the campaign for what was coined the Haitian emigration. The result was a stunning success with more than 6,000 of emigrants responding in less than a year. After that, however, the settlements met with multiple problems and many returned. However, many stayed and among those who stayed, enclaves in Puerto Plata and Santo Domingo were clearly evident by the time ofFrederick Douglass‘s visit in 1871. But the most distinct of all the enclaves was the one in Samaná, which has survived until today. They constitute a recognizable and sizable cultural enclave and a few of its members are native Samaná English speakers. Aware of its distinctive heritage, the community, whose peculiar culture distinguishes them from the rest of Dominicans, refers to itself as Samaná Americans, and is referred to by fellow Dominicans as “los americanos de Samaná.

4. Prampram, Ghana


The history of African Americans in Ghanagoes back to individuals such as American civil rights activist and writer W. E. B. Du Bois, who settled in Ghana in the last years of his life and is buried in the capital Accra. Since then, other African Americans who are descended from slaves imported from areas within the present-day jurisdiction of Ghana and neighboring states have applied for permanent resident status in Ghana. As of 2015, the number of African-American residents has been estimated at around 3,000 people, a large portion of whom live in Accra.

5. Haiti

In an attempt to break out from the United States’ racist filled society, antebellum free Blacks emigrated to Haiti. Although a few emigrants left for Haiti during the 1810s, it was not until 1824 that with the support of the Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer that the emigration began in earnest. The Haitian emigration project ran against the wishes of the American Colonization Society, which attempted to remove free Blacks as far as Africa and dreaded the idea of strengthening the Black state of Haiti. Several thousand Blacks departed toward Haiti the summer of 1824 and the flow continued until 1826 when the Haitian government stopped paying and defraying the transportation costs. U.S. Blacks continued moving to Haiti after this, but the numbers were never as high as those that left between the years of 1824–1826. Another Haitian emigration scheme began in 1859 and lasted for about three years.

As a result of both of these movements, perhaps as many as 20 percent of all free blacks in the northern United States emigrated to Haiti in the four decades before the Civil War. Several hundred African Americans from the South also emigrated to Haiti. Even Frederick Douglass, the former runaway slave and onetime opponent of colonization, eventually considered emigration to Haiti. In the spring of 1861, he planned to travel to the island nation to explore its prospect as a location for black emigrants. But the start of the Civil War kept him from making the trip.

Haitian emigration fell short of expectations. Indeed, most of the immigrants who moved from North America to Haiti eventually returned. Assimilation into Haiti’s Francophonic, Catholic, tropical culture proved extraordinarily difficult for English-speaking Protestants who were accustomed to the more temperate climates of the northern United States and Canada. Even though this project had the support ofAbraham Lincoln and other political figures, the frustrations of the 1820s and an increasing Black identification with the U.S. substantially hindered the enthusiasm this time.

6. Colchester, Ontario, Canada


Thousands of Black Loyalists and an estimated ten to thirty thousand fugitive slaves settled in Canada after the American Revolutionary War.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s