Why do we forget Black immigrants when we talk about Black history?
For the most part, the first thing Black kids are taught about themselves in history books pertains to slavery. This completely obscures their long history before slavery took place. Best-selling author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns, “The consequence of a single story is that it robs people of their dignity.”
In the 1870s, The Naturalization Act permitted “aliens of African nativity” to acquire citizenship. But this was only theoretical and didn’t necessarily entail a family reunion. Immigration quotas, enacted between 1921-1924, effectively blocked all Africans from entering the country. It wasn’t until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that the quotas were repealed.
Since then, African immigrants have been hungry to succeed and enact change in the country. According to the New American Economy 41% of African immigrants over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 32% of the U.S. born population.
When icons like Jackie Robinson Fredrick Douglass and Angela Davis are celebrated — Black immigrants who came the country, and helped build it into what it is today should also be recognized. It’s important for our Black history to be multi-faceted, and to tell the many different stories of our living history.