Afro-Caribbean is the shortened ethnicity term of African-Caribbean, which refers to the ethnicity and cultural heritage of Caribbean people whose ancestors were taken from Africa via the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Caribbean Islands between the 15th & 19th centuries to work primarily on various sugar plantations and in domestic households. Other names for the ethnic group include Black Caribbean, Afro-West Indian, Black West Indian, or Afro-Antillean.
The term was not used by West Indians themselves but was first coined by Americans in the late 1960s. This points to a controversial turn. This is because West Indian is the official term used by those from that region and the rest of the world. The name West Indian was first used by Christopher Columbus to describe the inhabitants he found. Columbus was originally attempting to reach the country of India by heading west instead of heading east. Subsequently, as a result of the days of Empire, each group of colonies was given a specific description.
For example, those living in the British Empire were called British West Indian. Therefore it was natural to conclude that French West Indians and Dutch West Indians were all part of those self-named empires. The term West Indian includes all who are born in the region, regardless of skin colour.
Historically speaking, West Indian is the correct term used and accepted by those in the region and the rest of the world.
People of Afro-Caribbean descent today mainly have between 85-95% African ancestry with their remaining DNA being of non-African ancestry, such as European, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Amerindian descent, as there has been extensive intermarriage and unions among the peoples over the centuries.
Although most Afro-Caribbean people today live in French-, English-, and Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations and territories, there are also significant diaspora populations throughout the Western world—especially in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands. Both the home and diaspora populations have produced a number of individuals who have had a notable influence on modern Western, Caribbean, and African societies; they include political activists such as Marcus Garvey and C. L. R. James; writers and theorists such as Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon; US military leader and statesman Colin Powell (whose parents were immigrants), and Jamaican musician Bob Marley.
During the post-Columbian era, the archipelagos and islands of the Caribbean were the first sites of African diaspora dispersal in the western Atlantic. Specifically, in 1492, Pedro Alonso Niño, an African-Spanish seafarer, was recorded as piloting one of Columbus’ ships. He returned in 1499, but did not settle. In the early 16th century, more Africans began to enter the population of the Spanish Caribbean colonies, sometimes arriving as free men of mixed ancestry or as indentured servants, but increasingly as enslaved workers and servants. This increasing demand for African labour in the Caribbean was in part the result of massive depopulation of the native Taino and other indigenous peoples caused by the new infectious diseases, harsh conditions, and warfare brought by European colonists. By the mid-16th century, the slave trade from West Africa to the Caribbean was so profitable that Francis Drake and John Hawkins were prepared to engage in piracy as well as break Spanish colonial laws, in order to forcibly transport approximately 1500 enslaved people from Sierra Leone to San Domingo (modern-day Haiti and Dominican Republic).
During the 17th and 18th centuries, European colonial development in the Caribbean became increasingly reliant on plantation slavery to cultivate and process the lucrative commodity crop of sugarcane. On many islands shortly before the end of the 18th century, the enslaved Afro-Caribbeans greatly outnumbered their European masters. In addition, there developed a class of free people of color, especially in the French islands, where persons of mixed race were given certain rights. On Saint-Domingue, free people of color and slaves rebelled against harsh conditions, and constant inter-imperial warfare. Inspired by French revolutionary sentiments that at one point freed the slaves, Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean Jacques Dessalines led the Haitian Revolution that gained the independence of Haiti in 1804, the first Afro-Caribbean republic in the Western Hemisphere.
In 1804, Haiti, with its overwhelmingly African population and leadership, became the second nation in the Americas to win independence from a European state. During the 19th century, continuous waves of rebellion, such as the Baptist War, led by Sam Sharpe in Jamaica, created the conditions for the incremental abolition of slavery in the region by various colonial powers. Great Britain abolished slavery in its holdings in 1834. Cuba was the last island to be emancipated, when Spain abolished slavery in its colonies.
During the 20th century, Afro-Caribbean people, who were a majority in many Caribbean societies, began to assert their cultural, economic, and political rights with more vigor on the world stage. Marcus Garvey was among many influential immigrants to the United States from Jamaica, expanding his UNIA movement in New York City and the U.S. Afro-Caribbeans were influential in the Harlem Renaissance as artists and writers. Aimé Césaire developed a négritude movement.
In the 1960s, the West Indian territories were given their political independence from British colonial rule. They were pre-eminent in creating new cultural forms such as reggae music, calypso and rastafarianism within the Caribbean. Beyond the region, a developing Afro-Caribbean diaspora in the United States, including such figures as Stokely Carmichael and DJ Kool Herc, was influential in the development of the Black Power movement of the 1960s and the hip-hop movement of the 1980s. African-Caribbean individuals also contributed to cultural developments in Europe, as evidenced by influential theorists such as Frantz Fanon and Stuart Hall.
- Sir Grantley Adams — Barbados, politician and lawyer; the first and only Prime Minister of the West Indies Federation (1958-1962)
- Jean-Bertrand Aristide — politician, priest and head of state, Haiti
- Dean Barrow — head of government, Belize
- Maurice Bishop — Grenada, revolutionary leader
- Paul Bogle — Jamaica, political activist
- Ertha Pascal Trouillot — Haiti, first Black female president in the world, lawyer
- Juan Almeida Bosque — Cuban revolutionary and politician
- Dutty Boukman — Jamaican and Haitian freedom fighter
- Forbes Burnham — Guyana, head of government
- Bussa — Barbados, freedom fighter
- Stokely Carmichael — Trinidad-born, civil rights activist and leader in the US
- Mary Eugenia Charles — Dominican head of government
- Perry Christie — Bahamian, politician and lawyer
- Henri Christophe — Haiti, revolutionary, general and head of state
- John Compton — Saint Lucia, politician and lawyer
- Jean-Jacques Dessalines — Haiti (est. 1804), revolutionary, general and first head of state of independent Haiti
- Papa Doc Duvalier — dictator of Haiti, 20th century
- Marcus Garvey — Jamaica, politician and writer, founder of UNIA and active in US politics from 1916-1927
- Philip Goldson — Belize, politician
- Sam Hinds — Guyana, head of government
- Hubert Ingraham — Bahamian, politician and lawyer
- Toussaint L’Ouverture — Saint-Domingue, revolutionary, general and governor
- Joseph Robert Love — Bahamian-born, medical doctor; Jamaican politician and political activist who influenced Marcus Garvey
- Antonio Maceo Grajales — Cuban revolutionary and general
- Michael Manley — Jamaica, politician
- Nanny of the Maroons — Jamaica, freedom fighter
- Lynden Pindling — Bahamian politician, and first Prime minister of the Bahamas
- Samuel Jackman Prescod — Barbados, first elected Afro-Caribbean politician in the House of Assembly
- Sam Sharpe — Jamaica, freedom fighter
- Solitude — Guadeloupe, freedom fighter
- Eric Eustace Williams — Trinidad and Tobago politician, writer and head of government
Science and philosophy
- Frantz Fanon — Martinique, writer, psychiatrist and freedom fighter
- Hubert Harrison – St. Croix, writer, orator, educator, critic, and race and class conscious political activist based in Harlem, New York
- Stuart Hall — Jamaican philosopher
- C. L. R. James — Trinidad and Tobago, activist and writer
- W. Arthur Lewis — Saint Lucia, economist and Nobel Prize recipient
- Pedro Alonso Niño — Afro-Spanish explorer
- Arlie Petters — Belizean mathematician
- Walter Rodney — Guyanese activist and writer
- Mary Seacole — Jamaican nurse and hospital director
Arts, sports and culture
- Carlos Acosta — Cuba, ballet dancer
- Deandre Ayton — Bahamas, #1 Overall Pick of the 2018 NBA Draft and player for the Phoenix Suns
- John Barnes — Jamaican-born English footballer
- Beenie Man — Jamaica, artist and musician
- Usain Bolt — Jamaica, Olympics Gold Medalist and World’s Fastest Man.
- Frank Bowling — Guyana, painter
- Aimé Césaire — Martinique, fiction writer
- Kingsley Coman — Guadloupe, football player
- Celia Cruz — Cuba, singer
- Tim Duncan – St. Croix (Anguilla parentage), Basketball player
- Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce — Jamaica, athlete
- Eddy Grant — Guyana, singer and musician
- Thierry Henry — Guadeloupe, football player, best French scorer
- Buddy Hield — Bahamas, NBA player for the Sacramento Kings
- C. L. R. James — Trinidad, historian, essayist and journalist
- Wyclef Jean — Haitian singer, composer and activist
- Brian Lara — Trinidad, cricketer
- Earl Lovelace — Trinidad, novelist and writer
- Bob Marley — Jamaica, singer and musician
- Anthony Martial — Guadeloupe, French football player
- The Mighty Sparrow — Grenadian/Trinidadian singer and composer
- Shaunae Miller — Bahamian, 400m and 200m runner and Olympic Gold Medalist
- Nicki Minaj — Trinidad, rapper and singer
- Sean Paul — Jamaica, dancehall artist
- Sidney Poitier — Bahamas, First black Academy Award-winning actor in Hollywood/US
- Cardi B — Trinidadian/Dominican, rapper and singer
- Sir Vivian Richards — Antigua, cricketer
- Rihanna — Barbados, singer
- Teddy Riner — Guadeloupe, Judoka
- Chevalier de Saint-Georges — Guadeloupe, composer
- Darren Sammy — Saint Lucia, cricketer
- Kimbo Slice — Bahamian boxer and MMA fighter
- Sir Garfield Sobers — Barbados, cricketer
- Bebo Valdés — Cuban musician
- Derek Walcott — Saint Lucia, poet, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature
- Afro-Antiguan and Barbudan
- Afro-Costa Ricans
- Afro-Dominican (Dominica)
- Afro-Dominican (Dominican Republic)
- Afro-Kittian and Nevisian
- Afro-Puerto Ricans
- Afro-Saint Lucian
- Afro-Trinidadians and Tobagonians
- Belizean Creole people
- Other members of the African diaspora in or from the Caribbean
- Results American Fact Finder (US Census Bureau)
- “Trinidad and Tobago 2011 population and housing census demographic report” (PDF). Central Statistical Office. 30 November 2012. p. 94. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States Congress House (1970). “Hearings”. 2: 64–69.
- Some Historical Account of Guinea: With an Inquiry into the Rise and Progress of the Slave Trade, p. 48, at Google Books
- Stephen D. Behrendt, David Richardson, and David Eltis, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research, Harvard University. Based on “records for 27,233 voyages that set out to obtain slaves for the Americas”. Stephen Behrendt (1999). “Transatlantic Slave Trade”. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. New York: Basic Civitas Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00071-5.
- Martin, Tony. Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggle of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976.
- Nigel C. Gibson, Fanon: The Postcolonial Imagination (2003: Oxford, Polity Press)
- Chen, Kuan-Hsing. “The Formation of a Diasporic Intellectual: An interview with Stuart Hall,” collected in David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen (eds), Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, New York: Routledge, 1996.
- The dictionary definition of Afro-Caribbean at Wiktionary