Were Africans ever in the majority on the American continent?

At the height of the slave trade to North and South America, did Africans ever out number all Europeans and Native Americans?

It seems feasible to me, before the European population of the colonies exploded. With the massive slave holding economies in the British colonies (mainland and caribbean) and the Spanish/Portugese. Along with the massive killing among native americans through disease and violence, and very short life expectancies with Europeans in the tropics.

If so when would this have been? (I am guessing early-mid 1700s?).

Not according to this.

I wasn’t suggesting the US (or the original colonies) were, that doesn’t seem feasible, as the populous Northern colonies were alway majority European (or I guess Native American, in their early days), I meant the entire American continent (including the caribbean).

By Africans, do you mean people born in Africa, or people descended from people born in Africa.

Because if the former, the answer will be an unambiguous “No”.

And if the latter, the answer is unknowable. The percentage African ancestry today varies from ~70% in Brazil to ~15% in the US. It’s not inconceivable that there was a time when most people were African by the second definition.

It’s not close. The entire slave trade to the New World over 350 years was 10.7 million.

The lowest estimates put the indigenous population of South America alone at about 4 million at the end of the 17th century, at the very beginning of the African slave trade. By 1800 that had gone up to 18 million. Add in more millions in North America plus all the settlers.

African Americans were always a small percentage of the total population. They were never even a majority in the southern states of the U.S. They might have been on some Caribbean islands, but those populations were always intrinsically tiny.

My understanding is that in the 1750’s or so, the population of South Carolina was 80% enslaved Africans. This was the driving force behind certain laws and business enterprises designed to attract (white) Presbyterians from Northern Ireland to immigrate to South Carolina around that time.

Wikipedia says the slave population of Brazil could have been as high as 56% in 1825

Those are self identified demographic categories. They tell you nothing about the proportion of people born in Africa or the proportion of people with African heritage. For example, according to that 13% of people have purely Black ancestry, where in reality it might be 2%.

Never believe any number with the lead-in “it could have been as high as”.

You seem to be saying that Indigenous American and Black American are exclusive groups, when we know that isn’t true. In Brazil, there is something like 90% overlap and even in the US the overlap is 25%.

This is one of the problems in trying to answer this question. Everyone assumes that a person is either White or Black or Indigenous. The reality is that’s just not true, especially for Indigenous and Black groups where there is a huge overlap.
If the indigenous population of South America was 18 million, that probably included 12 million Indigenous people with African ancestry and 12 million with European ancestry.

Mulatto and cafuzo people are not “Africans,” as the OP asks for. They’re not even “black” by some (non-US) reckonings.

In the sense that everybody on earth can trace an ancestor back to Charlemagne, this is a truism.

Add to that the fact that population estimates of the past are hugely contentious, with maximalist and minimalist proponents waging epic battles over decades.

A few generalizations can still be made. The African slave trade brought people mainly into the southern U.S., the Caribbean, and the colonies on the eastern side of South America. Mainly does not mean exclusively. An estimated 200,000 Africans were delivered to Mexico, e.g. That’s only 2% of the whole, within rounding error, and other areas can be treated similarly.

The amount of contemporary intermingling of populations before 1800 was also limited compared to the centuries since. Native populations in the Caribbeans were largely replaced by slaves. Those in the Southern U.S. were driven west before significant numbers of slaves or their descendants could come in contact with them. Again, the number is not zero, but the differences in societal structures at the time made the populations more homogeneous than we see around us today.

Who would count as what in a census is slippery and made more so by the lack of precision in contemporary assessments and the differences among countries in their coding of race. I’d still say that despite the confounding factors, as a general statement, it’s possible to safely assert that the number of descendants of indigenous natives and European settlers even as late as the early 19th century was vastly larger than the descendants of Africans from the slave trade.

Yeah, I’d take it with a grain of salt. But I would also say Brazil is the one non-Caribbean area where a straight majority of actual Africans was possible. Though high annual death rates and very low reproduction rates ( most were males in this period ) among imported slaves were self-limiting factors during the 17th century, the boom in specfically Portuguese immigration didn’t start until the 18th century with the huge gold rush among other factors. Before then Brazil functioned much like a massive Caribbean island, with sugar the principal commodity and massive slave importations as a result.

Insomuch as Brazil is estimated to have absorbed about half the historic slave trade and Amazonia at least had mostly lower native population densities, it is probably the only large country that could have had a majority actual African population at certain points in time.

But I think Blake’s point about the difficulty in teasing apart black and white numbers ( so to speak ) is a good one. Witness the at least somewhat multi-ethnic fugitive state of Palmares.

In the sense that these people have African ancestry in the past 300 years it is true. And that is the only sense of being true that is at all relevant to this thread.

IOW it is true on the sense of being completely true. It has nothing to do with Charlegmagne. It is true in the sense of how many people are descendants of Africans who arrive din the Americas since European settlement of the Americas. Which is the only kind of true that will answer the question.

Those were your estimates, not mine.

Which doesn’t tell us anything at all about what proportion of Mexicans are of African descent. It could be 100%, it could be 1%. I repeat: absolute numbers at time X do not tell you anything about proportions at time X+Y.


In that case, I don’t quite understand why you introduced census numbers as a way of supporting your claim that Blacks could ever have been in the majority. Why would you trust them to support your position, when you tell us that they are too imprecise to support any other position?

As I noted above, census data doesn’t tell us squat about ancestry. That was my whole point. You claimed that census data told us that Indigenous Americans numbered X%, so Blacks must have numbered 100-X%. My whole point was that this is invalid because Black and Indigenous are not mutually exclusive groups. they overlap by somewhere between 25& and 75%. If the Indigenous population is X%, the black population may be (Y + X) % even when Y + X >100.

Once again, you seem to think these are mutually exclusive groups. And once again, I feel it necessary to point out that they are not. The number of descendants of Indigenous natives + descendants of European settlers + descendants of Africans from the slave trade will be greater than the total number of people alive. Not may be. Will be. Must be.

Any evidence for this assertion?

How do you know exactly what the OP is asking for unless you ask him to clarify it? It’s not clear that he is asking for people of exclusively African descent, and it seems to me that would be unlikely. By definition, mulattoes and cafuzos/zambos are at least of partial African ancestry.

Why are people focusing on countries when the OP clearly states “continent”. The question I’d first ask the OP is which American continent is he talking about-- north or south? Since he says “the”, I assume it’s only one, and most likely he’s thinking N. America. However, with a reference to the Spanish and Portuguese, that would point towards S. America. Brazil was the hot spot for the salve trade, with no other country coming close to the number of slaves brought in.

Many Europeans and Latin Americans regard the Americas (North and South) to constitute a single continent. From the way the OP is phrased, it is obvious he is using this definition.

Who is focussing on countries?

But they are not Africans, even displaced. They are distinct peoples, different from any found in Africa.

I take the OP at his word, unless he amends himself.