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Fri, 04.04.1000

The African Diaspora, a story

*The African Diaspora is affirmed on this date in 1000. This term is for the global group of communities descended from Indigenous African people from Africa, predominantly in the Americas.

Many Africans scattered throughout North America, South America, Europe, and Asia during the Middle Passage, Trans-Saharan, and Indian Ocean slave trades. The phrase most commonly refers to the descendants of the native West and Central Africans who were enslaved and shipped to the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries, with their largest populations in the United States, Brazil, and Haiti. However, the term can also refer to non-native African descendants from North Africa who immigrated to other parts of the world. Some scholars identify the "four circulatory phases" of this migration out of Africa.

The earliest recorded evidence of Africans as enslaved people outside Africa comes from Ancient Greece and Rome. In the Greco-Roman world, almost all native Africans were known as Aithiopians, a term that means "burnt face," rather than referring to the geographical location of Ethiopia. Most enslaved Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman world came from Kush (modern-day Sudan) after they became prisoners of war in altercations with nearby Egypt. Archaeological evidence shows that a tiny proportion of enslaved people in the Greco-Roman world were Ethiopian, partly due to the distance required for import.

Enslaved Ethiopians primarily engaged in domestic and entertainment work, leading archaeologists to believe they were considered an expensive luxury. In one ostentatious display, the Roman Emperor Nero filled a theater with enslaved Ethiopians to demonstrate the wealth and power of Rome to a visiting foreign king. At the beginning of the 8th century, Arabs took enslaved Africans from the central and eastern portions of the African continent (where they were known as the Zanj). They sold them into markets in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and the Far East.

During the early 15th century, Europeans captured or bought enslaved Africans from West Africa and brought them to the Americas and Europe. The Atlantic slave trade ended in the 19th century. The diaspora through slave trading represents the largest forced migration in human history. The economic effect on the African continent proved devastating, as generations of young people were taken from their communities, and societies were disrupted. Some communities formed by descendants of enslaved Africans in the Americas, Europe, and Asia have survived to the present day. In other cases, native Ethnic groups of Africans intermarried with non-native Africans, and their descendants blended into the local population.

In the Americas, the union of multiple ethnic groups worldwide contributed to multi-ethnic societies. Most people in Central and South America are descended from white European, Native American, and African ancestry. In 1888, in Brazil, nearly half the population descended from enslaved Africans, and the variation of physical characteristics extends across a broad range. Historically, there was a greater European colonial population in the United States with enslaved Africans, especially in the Northern Tier. There was considerable racial intermarriage in colonial America and other forms of racial mixing during slavery and post-American Civil War years.  Jim Crow and anti-miscegenation laws passed after the 1863–1877 Reconstruction era in the South in the late-19th century, plus waves of vastly increased immigration from Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, maintained much distinction between racial groups.

In the early-20th century, to institutionalize racial segregation, most southern states adopted the "one drop rule," which defined and recorded anyone with any discernible African ancestry as "black," even those of obvious majority native European or majority-Native-American ancestry. One of the results of this implementation was the loss of records of Native-identified groups, who were classified only as black because of being mixed-race. The phrase African diaspora gradually became common at the turn of the 21st century.

The term "diaspora" originates from the Greek (diaspora, literally "scattering"), which gained popularity in English about the Jewish diaspora before being more broadly applied to other populations. Less commonly, the term has been used in scholarship to refer to more recent African emigration. The African Union (AU) defines the African diaspora as consisting of: "people of native or partial African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union." Its constitutive act declares that it shall "invite and encourage the full participation of the African diaspora as an important part of our continent, in the building of the African Union."

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