How Black is Black America

The Black/African American population is one of the most unique groups in the United States. Almost all descendants of American slaves are mixed with some European and Native American blood. Population researchers at Penn State University studied DNA samples from groups of African Americans throughout the US, West Africa, and Europe, to answer the question; How African are African Americans?

Black DNA by CityWhat they discovered contradicts some of the previous studies on the subject where it was thought that Blacks were about 30% white. They conclude that the average Black American is 17-18% white. But this is an average and it depends on the location. When geography is factored in we find that there is a wide range of mixed blood. The most African are those of the Gullah Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. This is also a logical conclusion based on the history of these Islands. Africans who were imported here were rice farmers who as slaves outnumbered whites by the thousands. Because of their large numbers and the absence of whites they were able to keep some of their African culture. This accounts for their “Caribbean” sounding accents and more prevalent West African features. The study concludes the Gullah are only 3-4% white. On the mainland in the South Carolina “Low Country” and near Charleston the percentages move up to about 12% which is still lower than average.

On the other end of the same spectrum Southern Louisiana (New Orleans) And cities on the West coast had some of the highest averages of white DNA at 23-26%. This is also not a surprise, knowing the history of these regions. Southern Louisiana was once settled by the French and Spanish. There are a large numbers of Blacks here who are more than 50% white. Many of whom would not be recognized as Black by most Americans. Migrants from this area moved in large numbers to the west coast rather than the industrialized north during the two great migrations. Here they mixed even more giving us the percentages at the higher end. 

It was also discovered that 10% of Black Americans are more than 50% white. And according to the same study there are 50 million whites with at least one Black ancestor. That means about 70% of whites have no Black ancestor.  In comparison, Mexican Americans in New Mexico and Colorado where 3% Black and 58% white on average.

*Department of Anthropology – College of the Liberal Arts – Penn State University 1997-2002
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