Black Caribbean countries, also referred to as Afro-Caribbean, African Caribbean, Afro/Black West Indian, or Afro/Black Antillean countries, are those where the majority of the population can trace their ancestry back to sub-Saharan Africa. A large proportion of Afro-Caribbeans are descended from African slaves brought to the islands to work on sugar plantations from the 1400-1800s. Approximately 90% of Afro-Caribbeans in the United States come from one of five countries: Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.
Afro-Caribbeans may choose to emigrate for several possible reasons. Some seek better working conditions or a professional environment with more room to grow. Others leave in search of peace, safety, and a reprieve from factors including political instability, the threat of human trafficking, disease, or natural disasters.
Black Caribbeans are immigrants from countries in and around the Caribbean Sea. The region was home to the Amerindians (indigenous people of the Americas) before they were decimated by disease and enslavement by the European colonizers. Black/Afro-Caribbeans account for a majority of the foreign-born black citizens in the U.S.
The main Afro-Caribbean/Black Caribbean countries include:
Most black Caribbeans from Haiti are descendants of enslaved people brought to the U.S. to work on plantations. The other major Haitian migration happened in 1986, when natives escaped a three-decade-long dictatorship.
The regime had led to significant political and economic problems, causing citizens to flee. Another significant migration happened in 2010 after the devastating Haiti earthquake.
The U.S. government extended a Temporary Protected Status to Haitians to provide temporary relief from deportation.
Black Caribbeans from the Dominican Republic make up the Hispanic community in the United States, after Cubans, Mexicans, and Salvadorans. The number of immigrants has grown exponentially over the last decade due to the political and economic upheaval in the Dominican Republic.
The assassination of Rafael Trujillo had caused political unrest making many middle-class workers, university students, and professors to leave for the United States. Dominican immigrants continue to move to the U.S. in overwhelming numbers decades later through familial channels.
Jamaicans also make up the Black Caribbean population in the United States. The largest Jamaican population lives in New York and Florida. They have influenced many aspects of the American culture from history, culinary feasts, and everyday life.
The United States has been a top destination for Cuban immigrants and Germany, Mexico, Canada, and Italy. Immigration started in the 1960s after Cuba’s U.S.-backed regime was ousted. The elite class moved to the U.S. as political refugees, followed by the middle and lower-class Cubans.
It was then that Congress passed a law to allow Cubans to become lawful residents in the United States after staying in the country for a year. As a result, the Cuban population grew six-fold within a decade. However, changes in immigration policies have reduced the number of Cuban immigrants in the U.S. over time.
Trinidadians and Tobagonians also make up the Black Caribbeans living in the U.S. They consist of people born in Trinidad and Tobago of different ethnic, religious, and national origins. As such, they don’t equate their nationality to a specific ethnicity.
Countries that contribute a majority of black Caribbean immigrants to the United States are Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.