Senegalese Americans

Senegalese Americans
Total population
(2013 American Community Survey)[1]
Regions with significant populations
New York City (Harlem, Brooklyn), New Jersey, Chicago (Illinois)
Muslims, Christians and Practitioners of traditional religion of Senegal.
Related ethnic groups
African Americans, American groups of West Africa (Gambian, Ivorian, Malian, Guinean, etc.), French

Senegalese Americans are Americans of Senegalese descent. In the surveys of 2008, 12,151 people claimed to be of Senegalese origin or descent in the United States. However, many African slaves exported to the United States were also of Senegalese origin (arrived together to other Africans of other origins but who also came of Senegalese ports). Thus many African Americans may also have some ancestors of this country.



The first people from present-day Senegal arrived in the modern United States arrived as slaves from several slave ports of Senegal. The Senegambia area (moderns Senegal, Gambia and Bissau-Guinea) was an important slave trade during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, both for the United States and Latin America, exporting many slaves to the Americas.[2] Most of the slaves who came specifically from present-day Senegal were imported to the modern United States mainly from the Saint-Louis port, as well as from Goree Island (while, also are registered some slaves from Galam port in South Carolina). So, Goree Island, located a few miles off the coast of Senegal in the Atlantic Ocean, was the place from which the Europeans and Americans organized the export of slaves to the former British colonies of North America, during the seventeenth and eighteenth, and even after of the official abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century,[3][4] displacing maybe 50,000 slaves from there (although according to the Slave House curator, 20 million slaves were exported from the Goore island to the modern United States).[4]

However, not all slaves collected from present-day Senegal were actually from there: many of them hailed from other African places, having been taken and sold in Senegal ports by the kings and aristocracies of other parts of Africa, as a consequence of tribal clashes, greed, etc... Since these ports, they are purchased and exported to the Americas.[2] While, most Africans sold into slavery in the Senegal region would have departed from that slave zones at the mouths of the Senegal River to the north, and from the Gambia River to the south,[3][4] caming from several places, among which highlighted Futa Tooro[5] [note 1] and Bundu.

Regarding specifically the native slaves from present-day Senegal, most of them belonged to ethnic groups Mandinga and Fula,[5] but also, to a lesser extent, belonged to Djolas, Wolof, Serer[7] and Bambara peoples,[8] at least. However, most of the Senegal´s slaves practiced the Islamic religion [4] (as was the case of the Mandingas, Fulbes or the Bambaras).

On the other hand, during their stay in the modern United States, it should be noted also that slaves from Senegambia staged some prominent revolts. Thus, in 1765, while the brigantine Hope was bringing slaves from the coast of Senegal and Gambia to Connecticut, the slaves provoked a revolt aboard of the brigantine, leveraging the murder of the captain (who had murdered several of his crewmen) for some crewmen. In the revolt, the slaves killed one crew member and wounded several others. On this day the revolt was suppressed through the murder of seven of them.[9]

Most of Senegal´s slaves were imported to South Carolina, Georgia and the Gulf Coast (highlighting his number in Louisiana[10]), followed mainly by Virginia and Maryland.[11] These places had thousands of slaves from day-present Senegal, being a significant minory in the slave population of there (although the slaves from Gambia were more numerous) and the predominant slave groups in Louisiana (with the slaves from Guinea, in the early stages of the slave trade in this place, between 1712 and 1719)[10][note 2] and North Carolina. Senegalese and Guinean slaves were imported to those places probably because those slaves could favor the rice plantations of these southerners places, already that they were familiar with rice plantations, which were commonly grown in Senegambia and Guinea.[10][11] [note 3]

Recent immigration

In the twentieth century voluntary Senegalese emigration to the United States rose again. Most immigrants settled in Manhattan, New York City.[12] Many of them, soon resettled, emigrating to Chicago and other areas. In 1970 arrived groups of students, employees and Senegalese street vendors to United States. These immigrants, in places as the aforementioned Chicago, often were traders, during the transition to other two occupations. However many of Senegalese living in United States also have high professions, such as engineering and accounting.

The number of Senegalese immigrants who arrived to the United States had a higher growth after the implementation of the structural adjustment programs of the 1980s and the devaluation of the CFA currency in Senegal in 1990. However, the changing of migration occurred not only by the increase in numbers of Senegaleses arriving: Until the late 1990s, the majority of Senegalese who emigrated to the United States were young men, but since the end of the decade, women also began to immigrate, working as hairdressers, waitresses in clandestine restaurants and studying in universities.[13]


Currently, the Senegalese population in United States is very diverse, both linguistically and culturally, although the majority of Senegalese are Muslims. Also there Senegalese Christians, animists and who still practice their African beliefs. The Senegalese tend to speak a variety of languages. They speak native languages to Senegal, specially the Wolof, but also French (the national language of Senegal) and English. Senegalese traders in places like Chicago have specialized in African art. However, they also trade in counterfeit goods of designer such as shirts and handbags of Korean and Indian traders. They send their remittances to their families that still living in Senegal and religious organizations in this country.[13]

Senegalese in New York

In United States one of the largest concentrations of people of Senegalese origin is in the state of New York, where they form one of the four main Muslim groups from Africa, being the neighborhood Little Senegal or Le Petit Senegal, one of its major enclaves, a neighborhood which varies linguistically. They form the majority group in a particular area of Harlem (116th Street between St. Nicholas and 8th Avenues). However, the majority of Senegalese of this neighborhood grew up poor in small villages in Senegal, where they did not receive an education, so they do not usually go to schools in Harlem. The most educated Senegalese usually do not live in New York, preferring places like New Jersey. Due to the size of the Senegalese community in Little Senegal, there also some Wolof interpreters who work as volunteers at the Harlem Hospital. The Wolof language extends throughout the neighborhood, including in the Senegalese restaurants, which use both English and Wolof. Most Senegalese are owners of shops, jewelry stores, taxis, travel agencies and professional companies. Senegalese people have successfully assimilated into the American culture while still maintaining their native language, Wolof. Preserving this language helps to unify and strengthen 'Little Senegal'.[12]

Media and Senegalese publications

Senegal conducted a relations program with the US Senegalese community, so many publications written in this country such as newspapers, magazines and brochures or restaurant menus from Senegal, are sent into the community via email. Most information comes through newsletters, but not there many bulletins of this type. The newsletters report about the events that occur in Senegal. However, there are also three Senegalese programs that are broadcast by radio stations; one is Voices of America. The programs are heard within an hour every Sunday and the radio announcers often speak Wolof. The newsletters are written mostly in French, although there is one written in Wolof. Many others people also are learning Wolof at Columbia University. There are organizations that support the recognition of Senegalese nationality or activism in the United States, as does the Association of Senegalese in America. ASA used to have a FM radio station, a broadcast that discusses the way in which the Senegalese of the US should cooperate in this community, and the kind of life that they have in the US.[12]


A Muslim association created by Senegalese immigrants is Tuba Da'ira Chicago, in Rogers Park (Chicago). People who belong to this organization are the disciples of the Murid tariqa (Arabic: Muslim Sufi order). Most of the current members of Da'ira are people who have just arrived from New York to Chicago looking for better markets and better educational opportunities. The Da'ira has held numerous activities in Chicago. The murids usually meet every week to sing the litany of her wali (Arabic: the friend of God or holy leader) Cheikh Amadou Bamba DIOP. The Da'ira holds an annual conference with the African American and Arab Muslim communities in Chicago. In 1997, the City of Chicago stated that on August 13, the Cheikh Amadou Bamba Day, The Da'ira allows the visit of a Murid marabout, a spiritual leader of Senegal, and a number of Islam. There also is a Senegalese association on Staten island newyorkolars. The Murid tariqa also develop an exchange program with American Islamic College in Chicago.[13]


  1. Futa Tooro was, in indeed, an of the main proslavery Kingdoms of West Africa during the colonial period of the Americas.[6]
  2. Many Senegambian slaves of Louisiana were Wolof and Bambaras people in the eighteenth century.[8]
  3. In addition to the five main places of import of slaves from day-present Senegal in the modern United States, in the rest of the modern states of country the Senegalese slaves only represented less than 5% of the slaves, having presence in places such as New York or Pennsylvania (in these places only were imported hundreds of Senegambian slaves). For other way, although the Senegalese were the most of the slaves in North Carolina, lived there only 544 slaves. They also were the most of the Senegambian slaves in New York and Florida.


  1. "Total ancestry categories tallied for people with one or more ancestry categories reported 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  2. 1 2 De Senegal a Talcahuano: los esclavos de un alzamiento en la costa pacífica (1804). - (in Spanish: From Senegal to Talcahuano: an uprising of slaves on the Pacific coast (1804)).
  3. 1 2 Estados Unidos de América: Información general sobre los Estados Unidos de América (in Spanish: United States: Overview of United States).
  4. 1 2 3 4 The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Senegal Slave House's past questioned.
  5. 1 2 Omar ibn Said (1831). "Autobiography of Omar ibn Said, Slave in North Carolina, 1831". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  6. EL ELEMENTO SUBSAHÁRICO EN EL LÉXICO VENEZOLANO (in Spanish: The Subsaharian element in the Venezolan lexicon).
  7. Transatlantic linkage: The Gullah/Geechee-Sierra Leone Connection. Retrieved December 29, 2011, to 20:51 pm.
  8. 1 2 Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion, Volumen 2. Writing by Junius P. Rodriguez
  9. Austin Meredith (2006). "The Middle Passage Traffic in Man-Body" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-02-20.
  10. 1 2 3 Africans and Their Descendants in the Americas: Restoring the Links Using Historical Documents and Databases. Retrieved October 14, 2012, to 20:20 pm.
  11. 1 2 Uncovering African Roots. DNA Tests, New Technology Reveal African Heritage. Retrieved September 8, 2012, to 16:45 om.
  12. 1 2 3 "New York Voices". New York University. 2001. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  13. 1 2 3 Encyclopedia of Chicago: Senegaleses in Chicago. Posted by Beth Anne Buggenhagen. Retrieved September 3, 2012, to 1:47 pm.
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