African Cultural Clusters



What follows is a range of data showing the movements of enslaved Africans by culture to places in the American South. This is represented state by state showing the number and types of imports each year based upon the records of slave trading vessels, documenting the movement of Africans from their African homeland to their new home in North America.

What we mean by culture in this context are those factors that unite a people into a common identity such as beliefs system, cuisine, cosmology, ethnicity, folklore, folk traditions, language, location and shared history. Included too is the summary of this data for each state showing the total numbers and percentage of each cultural cluster in this that population of enslaved peoples.

The following cultural map shows the relation of Africans arriving in South Carolina from each cluster to the corresponding culture in the United States. Of the culture clusters that entered (Akan, Bantu, Mande, Mano River, Niger Cross River, Niger Delta, and Sudanic), the Bantu are further divided into Bakongo, Ovimbundu, and Luba Lunda.


The transatlantic slave trade was of course the main avenue for the transmissions of African culture to the New World. This trade, as Holloway has pointed out, established a permanent link between Africa and North America as Africans sold into slavery 2

transplanted their cultures to South Carolina. The largest forced migration in history, the slave trade brought an estimated half-million Africans to what is not the United States over some two hundred years. This total is though to represent about 7 percent of the entire transatlantic slave. If one considers those who perished in the stockades and on the cargo ships a conservative estimate of the volume of traffic to the New World, the total may well be over forty million. [Holloway: 1990, 1].

An estimate of fifteen million was commonly accepted by scholars as the total volume of transatlantic traffic until Curtin’s

Atlantic Slave Trade revised this figure down to 9,566,000 [Curtin: 1971, 87]. Rawley, in The Transatlantic Slave Trade

, revised Curtin’s figures up to 11,345,000, suggesting that the total volume was even greater than the previous estimated by 1,779,000 [Rawley:1981]. Not all scholars agree with either Curtin’s global estimates or Rawley’s revisions. In a history of the transatlantic slave trade published by UNESCO in 1979, J.F. Abe Ajayi and J.E. Inikori believed that Curtin’s global estimate was at least 10 percent too low. They suggested that it would be more realistic to raise Curtin’s figures by 40 percent, making the total export from Africa "by the way of that trade 15.4 million" [Ajayi and Inikori: 1979, 154-66].

The total volume of the slave trade may never be known. But any tally of the mass human exportation must include not only the Africans who arrived alive but also those who died in the process of captured, wars, coastal factories, and the Middle Passage. For every African who arrived alive, 3 others died in interethnic warfare generally instigated by "pombieros," powerful mulatto chiefs, motivated by their white fathers and implemented by the black connections of their mothers for the purpose of acquiring slaves through raids. More Africans perished inside the stockades called "factories" while awaiting shipment to the New World. In addition, one-fourth of the cargoes were lost to sickness and death. If one considers all these factors in estimating the "total" volume of the traffic to the New World, the total may exceed even Holloway’s estimate. It may be over six million. This is conservative by W.E.B. DuBois estimate, which was 100 million for the total lost of human lives over three centuries of slave trading activities by Europeans and Americans.

The transatlantic slave trade was in full-scale operation by the late 1600s. Documents from 1700 to 1730 are vague in identifying African ethnicity, but we do have data on total recorded importations in the Carolinas was equal to that of Europeans. By 1715 Africans outnumbered Europeans 10,500 to 6,250. Between 1706 and 1724, 5,081 Africans arrived in colonial South Carolina; between 1721 and 1726, 3, 632 were imported [Wood: 1974]. Even though relatively few Africans were imported during the early years of the Colonial period, they outnumbered the white population. By 1720 Africans had outnumbered Europeans for more than a decade. In 1724 the white population in Colonial South Carolina was estimated at 14,000, the black population at 32,000. A Swiss newcomer, Samuel Dyssli, observed in 1737 that Carolina "looks more like a negro country than like a country settled by white people [Dyssli: 1737].

There were three slave trade periods: 1700-40, 1750-75, and 1776-1807. Treasury Report data, based on documents from the early period, show that 60 percent of the Africans entering South Carolina were from Angola in Central Africa. During the middle period, the figure dropped to 15 percent because of the Stono Rebellion. In the final period, Bantu forced immigration rose to 53 percent. Toward the mid-1700s, then, more Angolans than any other African group were being imported into South Carolina. 3

Between 1735 and 1740, 70 percent of all incoming Africans were Bantu from the Angolan region near the Congo River. Of 11,562 Africans imported in that five-year period, 8,045 were from Angola. The next largest group listed (2,719) was from "elsewhere in Africa." From Gambia only 705 Africans (6 percent of the total) were brought into South Carolina, probably to be trained as house servants.

After 1739 fewer Angolans were brought into the colony, for by then the southern planters were prejudiced against them. In the southern planters’ minds, Angolan dominance contributed to the unrest of 1739, in which Angolans revolted, killing whites while en route to Florida. Documents describing the Stono uprising mention that "amongst the Negroe Slaves there are a people brought from Charlestown, the Carolina port (now Charleston), and during the rest of the century Angolan importation dropped to 40 percent of the Africans imported into South Carolina. But even with this 30 percent drop, the Bantus still remained the largest cohesive group on the American plantation.


J. K. Abe Ajaya and J. E. Inikori, "Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Context of West

African History," in

Forest Migration

(New York: Africana, 1979), 154-66.

Elizabeth Donnan,

Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America


Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1932.

Philip D. Curtin,

The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A Census

. University of Wisconsin,


Joseph E. Holloway,

Africannisms in American Culture

. Indiana University Press;

Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1990.

Joseph E. Holloway and Winifred K. Vass,

The African Heritage of American English


Indiana University Press; Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1993.

Peter H. Wood,

Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through

The Stono Rebellion,

132; Samuel Dyssli, Dec. 3, 1737 (SCHGM), 90.

James A. Rawley,


The Transatlantic Slave Trade

(New York: North, 1981).4



African Nations Cultural Origins Year Imported No. of Africans