Today, Africans are coming to America again.
From Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria,
Eritrea, Africans are making their way to American shores to start
new lives, just as the first African adventurers and colonists
did nearly 400 years ago. These new arrivals are coming in great
numbers; more than 500,000 Africans came in the 1990s alone, more
than had come in all the 150 years before. Many are affluent and
are among the most educated immigrants in the United States today.
The new Africans are coming to a country that
has seen dramatic changes in the past four centuries, and a nation
that has been profoundly shaped by the long African experience
in America. It is a country where people of African ancestry now
hold positions of power, prestige, and influence, even as the
nation continues to grapple with the aftermath of segregation
and inequality. It is a country that has seen three of its most
prominent African American citizens--the diplomat Ralph
Bunche, the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and the novelist Toni Morrison--awarded the Nobel Prize.
It is also a country that has been influenced
in recent decades by the arrival of immigrants from the Caribbean,
the descendants of Africans who were taken to those islands during
their own centuries of slavery. These immigrants and their children
have also made their mark on U.S. life, including Shirley
Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress,
and General Colin Powell, who has served as Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff and as U.S. Secretary of State. Caribbean Americans
such as Kool DJ Herc also were instrumental in the creation of
hip-hop, which has continued African American music's ongoing
conquest of the world.
Perhaps most important, it is a country that
continues to be enriched by, to come to terms with, and to recognize
its African heritage.