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African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group of Americans with total or partial ancestry from any of the black racial groups of Africa. The term typically refers to descendants of enslaved black people who are from the United States.

Black and African Americans constitute the third largest racial and ethnic group in the United States (after White Americans and Hispanic and Latino Americans). Most African Americans are descendants of enslaved peoples within the boundaries of the present United States. On average, African Americans are of West/Central African and European descent, and some also have Native American ancestry. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, African immigrants generally do not self-identify as African American. The overwhelming majority of African immigrants identify instead with their own respective ethnicities (≈95%). Immigrants from some Caribbean, Central American and South American nations and their descendants may or may not also self-identify with the term.

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Harriet Tubman (c. 1870). A worker on the Underground Railroad, Tubman made 13 trips to the South, helping to free over 70 people.

The Underground Railroad was an informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists who were sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists who aided the fugitives. Other various routes led to Mexico or overseas. Created in the early 19th century, the Underground Railroad was at its height between 1850 and 1860. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the "Railroad". Canada was a popular destination with over 30,000 people arriving there to escape enslavement via the network at its peak, though US Census figures only account for 6,000. The Underground Railroad riders' stories are documented in The Underground Railroad Records.

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African-American school in 1916
Credit: Lewis Hine (1874-1940), photographer.
African-American school in Henderson County, Kentucky, 1916 by Lewis Hine.


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We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.
Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950),
"The Celebration of Negro History Week", Journal of Negro History (April 1927)

Selected biography

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an American jurist and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Before becoming a judge, he was a lawyer who was best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education. He was nominated to the court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.

On November 30, 1993, Justice Marshall was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

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