BY Deborah Dzifa Makafui, 3:15pm August 24, 2022,

Why do many African Americans have Nigerian ancestry?

Photo: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

It is public knowledge that many African Americans have their ancestral roots in Nigeria. A novel theory has been proposed by scholars to explain the variances in African ancestry in the Americas and how these variations were influenced by the transatlantic slave trade and subsequent intra-American slave trade, the effects of which were just recently realized.

Over 12.5 million slaves were transported from Africa to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade, with about 3.5 million coming from Nigeria. People of Nigerian descent still practice elements of their ancestral beliefs and rituals today, mostly in Brazil, Cuba, and Jamaica. African Americans’ genetic origin in Africa is clearly supported by the historical evidence, according to a DNA analysis of a sample taken from this population.

Between 1515 and 1865, it is thought that 12.5 million Africans were brought to the Western Hemisphere. The Caribbean and Latin America were where the vast bulk of them landed. Only 3 to 5 percent of passengers reportedly disembarked in North America’s continent. The DNA study adds details to this historical record, though.

The consumer genetics company 23andMe conducted the study, which involved the DNA of 50,281 persons of African origin in the United States, Latin America, and western Europe. The historical records of more than 36,000 transatlantic slave trade voyages that took place between 1492 and the early 19th century were compared to the genetic data.

Genetic investigations in the past have demonstrated that African ancestry among African Americans in the U.S. is primarily from people that lived close to modern-day Nigeria rather than from populations that resided elsewhere in Atlantic Africa, including Western and west central Africa. The study also mentioned that Americans, people from the French Caribbean, and those from the British Caribbean all have Nigeria as their most common heritage.

This is in spite of the fact almost half of the slaves who landed in the United States came from Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Senegal, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some of the other half came from Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Many African Americans would come to have Nigerian ancestry because of the later intra-American slave trade between the British Caribbean and the mainland Americas.

According to, “a significant number of slaves landing on the North American mainland came from the Caribbean, rather than directly from Africa. Some may have been trafficked through the English possessions in the Caribbean from Africa to North America. Others may have been enslaved on Caribbean plantations, and only later were they, or their children, trafficked to North America.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 25, 2022


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