Barbadian Americans

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Barbadian Americans
Eric Holder official portrait.jpg Shirley Chisholm.jpg Grandmaster IngenuityFest 140x190.jpg Mrliflive 140x190.jpg Afrika Bambaataa and DJ Yutaka (2004).jpg
Total population
Regions with significant populations
New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, California
English, Barbadian English
Related ethnic groups
Afro-Caribbean, Barbadian British, Barbadians in Brazil, Indo-Caribbean, Barbadian people

Barbadian (or Bajan) Americans are Americans of Barbados heritage or ancestry. The 2000 Census recorded 53,785 US residents born on the Caribbean island [1] 52,170 of whom were born to non-American parents [2] and 54,509 people who described their ethnicity as Barbadian. [3] In the 2010 US Census estimation report, over 62,000 Barbadian Americans live in the US, the majority in the New York City area extending from Rhode Island to Delaware. In past years, some also moved to the areas of Chicago, Illinois, [4] and Boston, Massachusetts. [5] [6]

The first Barbadians in United States

The first major wave of West Indian immigrants, including Barbadians, to the United States took place between 1901 and 1920, with a total of 230,972 entering the country. The majority were unskilled or semi-skilled laborers who came in search of economic opportunities. A substantial number were employed in low-paying service occupations and menial jobs that nonetheless offered higher wages than they could earn at home.

Between 1931 and 1950 West Indian immigration to the United States declined, due partly to an immigration restriction law that imposed a quota system heavily weighted in favor of newcomers arriving from northern and western European countries. The Great Depression was another factor in the drop in West Indian immigration, which reached a significant low in the 1930s.

A second wave began in the 1950s and peaked in the 1960s, when 470,213 immigrants arrived in the United States. More West Indians entered the United States during this decade than the total number that entered between 1891 and 1950. Between 1965 and 1976 a substantial number of immigrants from the Caribbean entered the United States, Barbados alone accounting for 17,400 of them. A large percentage of this wave of immigrants consisted of professional and technical workers forced to leave home because of limited economic opportunities in Barbados.

Settlement Patterns

Most Barbadian immigrants tend to live in Philadelphia esp. in the North Philadelphia and the West Philadelphia sections, while even more settled widely in the New York City metropolitan area. The 1990 Census of Population Report shows that over 82 percent live in the Northeast, with over 62 percent in New York. More than 11 percent live in the South, approximately four percent live in the West, and almost two percent live in the Midwest. The five states with the highest Barbadian populations are New York, with 22,298; Massachusetts, with 3,393; Florida, with 1,770; New Jersey, with 1,678; and California, with 1,160. Unlike Chinese Americans or Italian Americans or Mexicans/ Mexican Americans to compare, Barbadians—or West Indians, for that matter—do not occupy small enclaves in the cities of America where they live. They instead tend to settle wherever they can find jobs or affordable housing, and they strive for upward mobility and opportunities to improve their lives. Barbadians along with other various Caribbean Americans follow the agricultural and even more in the landscaping, construction, domestics and hospitality industries of both Florida and urban industrial areas of the Northeast Corridor or Eastern Seaboard. In the 2000s, an estimated 100,000 Barbadian Americans live in the New York and Philadelphia areas.

Traditions, Customs, and Beliefs

Barbadians have a variety of traditions that are handed down from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth. Many traditions may be traced to Africa or Europe. Many Barbadian beliefs, however, are rooted in the country's own distinct culture.

Employment and Economic Traditions

Like most immigrants, Barbadian Americans come to America to "better themselves" economically. Over 82 percent settle in the Northeast region of the United States, 76 percent in New York state alone. Some find occupation in professional and technical fields, but the vast majority work as clerical workers, operators, craftsmen, foremen, sales workers, private household workers, service workers, managers, officials, foremen, and laborers; a very few work as farm managers and laborers. Because they believe in upward mobility, many Barbadians attend technical and professional schools and colleges, and they quickly qualify themselves for better paying jobs.


Prince Hall (1735?-1807) was an important black leader in the eighteenth century. Accounts of his birth, parentage, early life, and career vary, but it is widely accepted that Hall was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, in about 1735 to an English man and a woman of African descent, and that he came to America in 1765. Prince Hall was both an abolitionist and a Masonic organizer. Because of his organizing skill, a charter for the establishment of a lodge of American Negroes was issued on April 29, 1787, authorizing the organization in Boston of African Lodge No. 459, a "regular Lodge of Free and accepted Masons, under the title or denomination of the African Lodge," with Prince Hall as master. Prince Hall was also an abolitionist and spokesman. He was one of eight Masons who signed a petition on January 13, 1777, requesting the Massachusetts state legislature to abolish slavery and declaring it as incompatible with the cause of American independence. He was later successful in urging Massachusetts to end its participation in the slave trade. He established the first school for colored children in his home in Boston in 1800. Hall ranks among the most significant black leaders in his day.

Politics and Government

As early as the 1670s, Barbadians have contributed to American government. Many prominent Barbadians immigrated to Carolina during that decade, among them was Sir John Yeamans, who became governor of the colony that is known today as South Carolina.

In the twentieth century, Shirley Chisholm, born in 1924 to Barbadian parents, became a politician of great stature in America. Although Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York, she spent the first 10 years of her life in Barbados, where she received much of her primary education under the strict eye of her maternal grandmother. She gave credit for her later educational success to the well-rounded early training she received in Barbados. In 1964 Chisholm ran for the New York State Assembly and won the election. She fought for rights and educational opportunities for women, blacks, and the poor. She served in the State Assembly until 1968, then she ran for the United States Congress. Chisholm won the election to the US House of Representatives and became the first black woman ever to be elected to the House, where she served with distinction from 1969 to 1982. In 1972 Chisholm made an unprecedented bid for the Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. She was the first black and first woman to run for the presidency. She is also the founder of the chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women.

Eric Holder, the 82nd United States Attorney General, has roots in Barbados. His father Eric Himpton Holder, Sr. (1905–1970) was born in St. Joseph, Barbados. His mother, Miriam, was born in New Jersey to parents who were immigrants from Saint Philip, Barbados.

The Barbados government also maintains diplomatic and consular representation in a handful of American cities and towns. These include an Embassy in Washington, D.C., two Consulates-General in: Miami, New York City; [7] a Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City; [7] and is also further supported by a collection of Honorary Consulates in: Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Louisville, New Orleans, Portland, San Francisco, and Toledo. [8]

Notable People

See also


  1. ^ "Country-of-birth database". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Archived from the original on June 17, 2009. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  2. ^ "Profile of selected demographic and social characteristics: 2000" (PDF). US Census Bureau. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  3. ^ "Ancestry (total categories tallied) for people with one or more ancestry categories reported". US Census Bureau. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  4. ^ "Barbadians", The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago.
  5. ^ Caribbean Heritage Association, Boston - History Archived April 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Facts for Features: Caribbean-American Heritage Month, June 2013", United States Census Bureau.
  7. ^ a b Department of State (12 August 2011). "Background Note: Barbados". Government of the United States of America. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  8. ^ List of Barbadian Honorary Consulates (as of September 2011), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Barbados

Further reading

  • Mulraine, Lloyd E. "Barbadian Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2014), pp. 237–249. online

External links