Nigerian Americans

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Nigerian Americans
Total population
380,785 total, 2016
277,027 Nigerian-born, 2012-2016
Regions with significant populations
Texas, Maryland, California, New York, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Minnesota
American English, Nigerian English, Igbo, Yoruba, Edo, Ibibio- Anaang- Efik, Esan, Urhobo, Isoko, Idoma, Ijaw, Fulani, Kalabari, Igala, Ikwerre, Tiv, Ebira, Nembe, Etsako, Itsekiri, Nupe, Nigerian Pidgin
Nigerian languages and various languages of Nigeria [1]
Christianity ( Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism)
Sunni Islam, Animism, West African Vodun, agnosticism, atheism minorities [2]
Related ethnic groups
Nigerian Canadians

Nigerian Americans are Americans who are of Nigerian ancestry. The 2016 American Community Survey estimates that 380,785 US residents report Nigerian ancestry, however it is believed to be higher than that as many African-Americans are of Nigerian descent. [3] The 2012-2016 ACS estimates that 277,027 American residents were born in Nigeria. [4]

Nigeria is both the most populous country in Africa—190.8 million as of 2018 [5]—and the African country of origin with the most migrants in the United States, as of 2013. [6]


Slavery (17th century – 1865)

The first people of Nigerian ancestry in what is now the modern United States were brought to the Americas by force as slaves. [7] Calabar and Badagry ( Gberefu Island), Nigeria, became major points of export of enslaved people from Africa to the Americas during the 17th and 18th centuries. Most slave ships frequenting this port were English. [8] Most of the slaves of Bight of Biafra – many of whom hailed from the Igbo hinterland – were trafficked to Virginia. After 400 years in the United States and the lack of documentation because of enslavement, African Americans have often been unable to track their ancestors to specific ethnic groups or regions of Africa. Like Americans of other origins, at this point most African Americans have ancestors of a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Most of the people who were kidnapped from Nigeria were likely to have been Igbo, [9] and Yoruba. Other ethnic groups, such as the Fulani and Edo people were also captured and transported to the colonies in the New World[ citation needed]. The Igbo were exported mainly to Maryland [10] and Virginia. [11] They comprised the majority of all enslaved Africans in Virginia during the 18th century: of the 37,000 Africans trafficked to Virginia from Calabar during the eighteenth century, 30,000 were Igbo.[ citation needed] In the next century, people of Igbo descent were taken with settlers who moved to Kentucky. According to some historians, the Igbo also comprised most of the slaves in Maryland. [11] This group was characterized by high rates of rebellion and suicide, as the people resisted and fought back against enslavement.

Some Nigerian ethnic groups, such as the Yoruba, and some northern Nigerian ethnic groups, had traditional, cultural identification marks, such as tattoo and scarification designs. These could have assisted a kidnapped and enslaved person who escaped in locating other members of their ethnic group, but few enslaved people managed to escape the colonies. In the colonies, slavers tried to dissuade the practice of traditional tribal customs. They also mixed people of different ethnic groups together to make it more difficult for them to communicate and band together in rebellion. [12]

Modern immigration

According to the United Census Bureau, 4 percent of Nigerians hold the Ph.D. degree compared to 1% of the general US population. 17% of Nigerians hold a master's degree and 37% have a bachelor's degree. Since the mid-20th century particularly, after Nigeria gained independence, many modern Nigerian immigrants have come to the United States to pursue educational opportunities in undergraduate and post-graduate institutions. In the 1960s and 1970s after the Biafra War, Nigeria's government funded scholarships for Nigerian students, and many of them were admitted to American universities. While this was happening, there were several military coups, interspersed with brief periods of civilian rule. The instability resulted in many Nigerian professionals emigrating, especially doctors, lawyers and academics, who found it difficult to return to Nigeria. [13]

During the mid- to late-1980s, a larger wave of Nigerians immigrated to the United States[ citation needed]. This migration was driven by political and economic problems exacerbated by the military regimes of self-styled generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha. Other émigrés comprised a large number of refugees, fleeing on account of religious persecutions, endless political unrests and ethnic/tribal conflicts, the presumption of Nigeria as a failing state, or just to enhance the quality of lives for themselves and their families (Ogbuagu, 2013). The most noticeable exodus occurred among professional and middle-class Nigerians who, along with their children, took advantage of education and employment opportunities in the United States.

This exodus contributed to a "brain-drain" of Nigeria's intellectual resources to the detriment of its future. Since the advent of multi-party democracy in March 1999, the former Nigerian head-of-state Olusegun Obasanjo has made numerous appeals, especially to young Nigerian professionals in the United States, to return to Nigeria to help in its rebuilding effort. Obasanjo's efforts have met with mixed results, as some potential migrants consider Nigeria's socio-economic situation still unstable (Ogbuagu, 2013b).


According to data provided by Rice University in Texas, Nigerian-Americans are the most educated ethnic group in the United States. [14] According to the Migrations Policy Institute, 29% of Nigerian-Americans have graduate degrees (compared to 11% of the overall American population). [15] Furthermore, a minimum of four percent of Nigerian-Americans are also Ph.D holders. This is at least three times higher than any other ethnic group in the United States of America. [16] Nigerian-Americans are also known for their contributions to medicine, science, technology, and literature.

Nigerian culture has long emphasized education, placing value on pursuing education as a means to financial success and personal fulfillment. [17] Famous Nigerian Americans in education include Professor Jacob Olupona, a member of the faculty at Harvard College of Arts and Sciences as well as Harvard Divinity School. Migrating to the US from Nigeria more than 40 years ago, Professor Olupona has furthered the academic study of traditional African religions, such as the Yoruba traditional religion, and has been a vocal advocate for Nigerian Americans and education initiatives. [18]

A large percentage of black students at highly selective top universities are immigrants or children of immigrants. Harvard University, for example, has estimated that more than one-third of its black student body consists of recent immigrants or their children, or were of mixed-race parentage. [19] Other top universities, including Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Rice, Duke and Berkeley, report a similar pattern. [20] As a result, there is a question as to whether affirmative action programs adequately reach their original targets: African Americans who are descendants of American slaves and their discriminatory history in the US. [19]

According to the 2016 Open Doors report, the top five U.S. institutions with the largest student population of Nigerian descent (in no particular order) are Texas Southern University, University of Houston, University of Texas at Arlington, University of North Texas, and Houston Community College. [21][ better source needed] According to the 2017 report, 11,710 Nigerian immigrants studied in the U.S. in the 2016-17 academic year, the 12th highest country of origin and highest of any African country. [22] 4,239 of these (36%) are pursuing graduate degrees. [23]

Demography and areas of concentrated residence

As of 2013, the World Bank estimated that 252,172 Nigerian migrants live in the US. This is 23% of all Nigerian migrants, the most of any destination country. Nigerian migrants represent 0.5% of all migrants in the US, the 32nd highest of all US source countries. [6]

Based on DNA studies, an estimated 80 percent of African Americans (about 35 million) could have some Igbo or Hausa ancestry. Therefore, 60 percent of them, according to historian Douglas B. Chambers, could have at least one Igbo ancestor. [24]

US states with the largest Nigerian populations

The 2016 American Community Survey estimates that 380,785 US residents report Nigerian ancestry. [3]

The 2012-2016 ACS [4] estimates that 277,027 American residents were born in Nigeria. It also estimates that these states have the highest Nigerian-born population:

  1. Texas 60,173
  2. Maryland 31,263
  3. New York 29,619
  4. California 23,302
  5. Georgia 19,182
  6. Illinois 15,389
  7. New Jersey 14,780
  8. Florida 8,274
  9. Massachusetts 6,661
  10. Pennsylvania 6,371

Religious demographics

Nigerian Muslim association in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York

In terms of religion the Nigerian community is split, Christianity (41%) and many others following Islam (47%) and other religions (2%)[ disputed ].

Traditional attire

Among Nigerian Americans, traditional Nigerian attire remains very popular[ citation needed]. However, because the fabric is often hard to acquire outside of Nigeria[ citation needed], traditional attire is not worn on an everyday basis but rather, reserved for special occasions such as weddings, Independence Day celebrations and birthday ceremonies. For weddings, the fabric used to sew the outfit of the bride and groom is usually directly imported from Nigeria or bought from local Nigerian traders and then taken to a local tailor who then sews it into the preferred style. Due to the large number of Nigerians living in America and the cultural enrichment that these communities provide to non-Nigerians, the traditional attire has been adopted in many parts of the country as a symbol of African ethnicity, for example, clothes worn during Kwanzaa celebrations are known to be very influenced by Nigerian traditional attire. In recent years, the traditional fabric has attracted many admirers especially among celebrities such as Solange Knowles [25] and most notably Erykah Badu. On the fashion runway, Nigerian American designers like Boston-born Kiki Kimanu [26] are able to combine the rich distinct colours of traditional attire with Western styles to make clothes that are highly sought after by young Nigerian professionals and Americans alike. [27]

Nigerian American ethnic groups

Igbo American

Igbo Americans are people in the United States that maintain an identity of a varying level of Igbo ethnic group that now call the United States their chief place of residence (and may also have US citizenship). Many moved to the US following the effects of the Biafran War (1967–1970). The Igbos lived in small clans during the pre-colonial era.

Yoruba American

Yoruba Americans are Americans of Yoruba descent. The Yoruba people ( Yoruba: Àwọ̀n ọ́mọ́ Yorùbá) are an ethnic group originating in southwestern Nigeria and southern Benin in West Africa.The first Yoruba people who arrived to the United States were imported as slaves from Nigeria and Benin during the Atlantic slave trade. This ethnicity of the slaves was one of the main origins of present-day Nigerians who arrived to the United States, along with the Igbos. In addition, native slaves of current Benin hailed from peoples such as Nago (Yoruba subgroup, although exported mainly by Spanish, when Louisiana was Spanish), Ewe, Fon and Gen. Many slaves imported to the modern United States from Benin were sold by the King of Dahomey, in Whydah.

The native tongue of the Yoruba people is spoken principally in Nigeria and Benin, with communities in other parts of Africa, Europe and the Americas. A variety of the language, Lucumi, is the liturgical language of the Santería religion of the Caribbean. [28]


Nigerian-American organizations in the US include:

  • Houston, Texas-based Nigerian Union Diaspora (NUD)
  • Houston, Texas-based Nigerian-American Multicultural Council, NAMC ( [29]
  • Washington, DC-based Nigerian-American Council or Nigerian-American Leadership Council [30]
  • The Alliance of Nigerian Organizations in Atlanta, Georgia [31]
  • The Nigerian Association Utah [32]
  • The Nigerian Ladies Association of Texas (NLAT) [33]
  • The Nigerian American Multi Service Association, NAMSA ( [34]
  • First Nigeria Organisation [35]
  • United Nigeria Association of Tulsa [36]
  • The Alliance of Nigerian Organizations in Georgia is an organization that tries to satisfy the interests of the community, and represents all Nigeria nonprofit associations in the state (such as Nigerian Women Association of Georgia – NWAG- [37]), in tribal issues, ethnic, educational, social, political and economic. Through the ANOG, the Office of Nigerian Consulate in Atlanta reaches the Nigerian community associations. [31]
  • National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations in USA; [38]
  • The National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations is an organization that teaches Islam, study the elements of religion, favoring Muslim integration in the US, creating a Muslim American identity and promoting interpersonal relationships. [38]
  • Nigerian Ladies Association of Texas (NLAT) is an apolitical, non-profit formed by Nigerian women that promote fellowship, community and family values. NLAT is looking for ways to improve the lives of its members and their families and contribute to improving the life and development of Nigeria and the United States of America. The association teaches its members on individual rights (especially the rights of women, creating media to promote respect for these rights, to promote equality and peace between the sexes) and establishes job opportunities for Nigerians living in Texas, organizes and provides resources to women and children in Nigeria and the US, teaches Nigerian culture to the new generations, working with women's groups in the US and drives programs to promote education and health services. [33] and the Nigerian American Multi Service Association (NAMSA) provides services to community members. [34]
  • Nigerian Lawyers Association (NLA): Incorporated in 1999, the Nigerian Lawyers Association (“NLA”) NLA's principal objectives are to cultivate the science of jurisprudence. [39] Its first president was John Edozie of Madu, Edozie, and Madu law firm.
  • NNAUSA is an organization for the Ngwa Diaspora in America [40]

Nigerian American associations representing the interests of determined groups include:

  • The Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas [41] (ANPA)
  • Nigerian Nurses Association USA [42]
  • Ogbakor Ikwerre USA (OIUSA), Inc. is a non–profit organization of Ikwerre indigenes residing in the United States of America and Canada. We are committed to the survival and prosperity of the Ikwerre people and the entire Ikwerre community. OIUSA is an incorporate body that was founded on July 6, 1996 in Los Angeles, California. The organization is incorporated in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, but headquartered in Los Angeles. Membership comprises individuals and associations that subscribe to OIUSA vision. Members come from all over the 50 states in the US and Canada
  • Nigerian Student Association [43]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Table". Archived from the original on February 14, 2020. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Data". Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 29, 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title ( link)
  6. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 23, 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title ( link)
  7. ^ "Nigeria – The Slave Trade". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  8. ^ Sparks, Randy J. (2004). The Two Princes of Calabar: An Eighteenth-century Atlantic Odyssey. Harvard University Press. p. 39. ISBN  0-674-01312-3.
  9. ^ "Ethnic Identity in the Diaspora and the Nigerian Hinterland". Toronto, Canada: York university. Retrieved November 23, 2008. As is now widely known, enslaved Africans were often concentrated in specific places in the diaspora...USA (Igbo)
  10. ^ "Languages in America #25 along with Kru and Yoruba". U.S.ENGLISH Foundation, Inc. Archived from the original on May 25, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
  11. ^ a b Chambers, Douglas B. (March 1, 2005). Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia. University Press of Mississippi. p. 23. ISBN  1-57806-706-5.
  12. ^ "Ethnicity and the Slave Trade: 'Lucumi' and 'Nago' as Ethnonyms in West Africa",
  13. ^ "Nigerians in Chicago". Posted by Charles Adams Cogan and Cyril Ibe, Encyclopedia of Chicago; Retrieved May 2, 2013
  14. ^
  15. ^ [ "The Nigerian Diaspora in the United States"] Check |url= value ( help) (PDF). Migration Policy Institute. June 2015. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Adenle, Tola. "Why do immigrant kids perform so well in America (2): The Nigerian example". Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  18. ^ Alabi Garba, Kabir. "Ambali... Pursuing human capital development agenda". The Guardian. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  19. ^ a b Rimer, Sara; Arenson, Karen W. (June 24, 2004). "Top Colleges Take More Blacks, but Which Ones?". New York Times. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  20. ^ Johnson, Jason B. (February 22, 2005). "Shades of gray in black enrollment: Immigrants' rising numbers a concern to some activists". San Francisco Chronicle.
  21. ^ "10,674 Nigerians studying in the US – highest in 30 years | TheCable". Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  22. ^ "Places of Origin". Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  23. ^ "International-Students-Places-of-Origin - Google Sheets". Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  24. ^ "Southern Miss history professor made chief in Nigerian royal lineage". University of Southern Mississippi. April 15, 2005. Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  25. ^ KaKKi. "KaKKi: Solange Knowles – African Prints". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 13, 2014. Retrieved April 11, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title ( link)
  27. ^ "Kiki Kamanu". Kiki Kamanu. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  28. ^ date=December 2017
  29. ^ "Nigerian-American Multicultural Council".
  30. ^ "Nigerian-American Council". Archived from the original on July 9, 2017. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  31. ^ a b Itoro E. Akpan-Iquot. "Home Page". Alliance of Nigerian Organizations in Georgia, USA (ANOG). Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  32. ^ "Association of Nigerians in Utah, USA". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  33. ^ a b "Nigerian Ladies Association of Texas". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  34. ^ a b "NAMSA – Nigerian American Multi-Service Association". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  35. ^ "Nigerians in Chicago Rise Against Boko Haram". Nigerian American Business. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  36. ^ "United Nigeria Association of Tulsa". Archived from the original on November 18, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  37. ^ "Nigerian Women Association of Georgia – NWAG". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  38. ^ a b National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations in USA
  39. ^ Nigerian Lawyers Association
  40. ^ Ngwa National.
  41. ^ Donia Robinson/Gold Star Web Sites, LLC. "Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas – Home". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  42. ^ "Nigerian Nurses Association USA – Home". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  43. ^

Further reading

  • Emeka, Amon. "'Just black' or not 'just black?' ethnic attrition in the Nigerian-American second generation." Ethnic and Racial Studies 42.2 (2019): 272-290.
  • Ette, Ezekiel Umo. Nigerian Immigrants in the United States: Race, Identity, and Acculturation (Lexington Books, 2012).
  • Ogbaa, Kalu. The Nigerian Americans (Greenwood, 2003).
  • Ogbuagu, B.C. (2013). “Diasporic Transnationalism”: Towards a framework for conceptualizing and understanding the ambivalence of the social construction of “Home” and the myth of Diasporic Nigerian homeland return. Journal of Educational and Social Research 3(2), 189-212; Doi:10.5901/jesr. 2013.v3n2p189; ISSN 2239-978X.
  • Ogbuagu, B.C. (2013). Remittances and in-kind products as agency for community development and anti-poverty sustainability: Making a case for Diasporic Nigerians. International Journal of Development and Sustainability 2(3),1828-1857. Online ISSN: 2168-8662 – ISDS Article ID: IJDS13052905
  • Rich, Timothy. "You can trust me: A multimethod analysis of the Nigerian email scam." Security Journal 31.1 (2018): 208-225. online
  • Sarkodie-Mensah, Kwasi. "Nigerian Americans." in Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 3, Gale, 2014), pp. 329-341. online