African Immigrants in the United States
In the last 20 years, the African population in the United States has grown threefold. There are currently about 1.2 million African-born immigrants in the United States, according to the Migration Policy Institute, amounting to just over 3 percent of the immigrant population. Most of this population lives in New York City and Washington, D.C., with smaller groups in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. In both New York and Washington D.C., the majority of immigrants are from West African countries, predominantly Ghana and Nigeria. According to the 2000 census, there were 86,918 Ghanaians living in the United States. Researchers note that the actual number may be slightly higher, as the census does not count undocumented immigrants.
Many African immigrants, including Ghanaians, habitually send money back home to their nuclear and extended families. According to a report by the Department of International Development in the U.K., money sent back to Ghana accounted for more than 13 percent of that country’s GDP in 2003.
» “CNN Series Must Also Highlight African Immigrants.” New America Media. April 8, 2009.
» “African Immigrants Among Obama’s Enthusiastic Backers.” The Washington Post. July 6, 2008.
» “Africans in U.S. Caught Between Worlds.” USA Today. June 16, 2007.
» “African Immigrants Increase U.S. Presence.” Voice of America. December 6, 2003.
» “2005-2007 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates.” U.S. Census Bureau.
» “Black Diversity in Metropolitan America.” Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research, University at Albany. Aug. 15, 2003.
» Massey, Douglas S., et al. The Source of the River: The Social Origins of Freshmen at America’s Selective Colleges and Universities. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006
» “Ghanaian Immigrants Tighten Belts in Economic Crunch.” New America Media. Oct. 20, 2008.
Located on the coast of western Africa, just north of the equator, between Côte d’Ivoire and Togo, Ghana has a population of 23 million people. Fewer than half reside in urban areas. The population includes many different ethnic groups, with the largest being the Akan, Mole-Dagbon and Ewe groups. About two thirds of the people are Christian — of the non-Christian population, about half are Muslim and one quarter follow traditional faiths of the area. English is recognized as the official language, but most people also speak African languages. Approximately 3.5 percent of the population speaks Ga, the language spoken by Rocky’s family. Rocky’s mother is Ashanti and speaks Twi.
When European traders arrived in Africa in the 15th century, Ghana, then known as the Gold Coast, was one of their first stops. Portugal, England, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany all controlled parts of the coastal region, until the English consolidated control in the early 19th century. For almost 150 years, Ghana was the center of the British slave trade. Western traders arrived in ships loaded with manufactured goods to barter or trade for slaves. The British held Ghana as a colony until 1957, when it became independent. The remnants of the trade in Ghana are still visible today in dozens of forts and castles built by Europeans in the 15th century.
More recently, a series of military coups destabilized the government of Ghana for decades. Jerry Rawlings, formerly an officer in the country’s air force, led the last successful coup in 1981 and ruled for a decade before laying the foundation for an elected parliamentary government. After the constitution was approved in 1992, Rawlings was twice elected to serve as president. John Atta Mills, the current president, was elected in December 2008. In the last two decades, Ghana has emerged as a strong and stable force in western Africa, and the constitution has endured.
In July 2009, President Barack Obama made his first official trip to Africa since taking office, and he chose Ghana as his first destination on the continent.
» CIA World Factbook: Ghana.
» BBC News Country Profile: Ghana.
» U.S. Department of State Background Note: Ghana.
» Encyclopedia Britannica: Ghana.
» Eltis, David, et al. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-ROM. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999
» Gocking, Roger S. The History of Ghana. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2005
» St. Clair, William. The Door of No Return: The History of Cape Coast Castle and the Atlantic Slave Trade. New York: Blue Bridge, 2007
» Thomas, Hugh. The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440–1870. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
First-Generation College Students
Rocky is the first person in her immediate family to attend a post-secondary institution, making her a first-generation college student.
Despite the overall high levels of education in the United States, there are still many first-generation college students. A 2006 study that surveyed 385 four-year colleges found that one in six freshmen were first-generation college students. Research suggests that students whose parents did not attend or complete their post-secondary education face a distinctive set of challenges. Such students often face greater challenges than their peers when applying to colleges, due to lack of family knowledge of the application process; additionally, their choices are often more likely to be constrained by financial factors. These students are more likely than others to be employed during their studies and are significantly more focused on college as a means to improve their material standing.
First-generation students often feel less academically prepared as well; studies suggest that they are more likely than their peers from college-educated families to arrive at college needing remedial or preparatory assistance. Adjusting to the social atmosphere can also be a challenge for these students, who may be older than the average student, since first-generation college attendees are more likely to spend time working between high school and college. The challenges that these students face make it more difficult for some to finish their schooling, and a first-generation student is slightly more likely to leave college without attaining a degree than the population as a whole. Those who do graduate, however, achieve professional status on par with other graduates and have similar long-term earning prospects.
» “First in My Family: A Profile of First-Generation College Students at Four-Year Institutions Since 1971.” Higher Education Research Institute. April 2007.
» “First-Generation College Students: A Literature Review.” (PDF)Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation. November 2004.
» “First-Generation Students: Undergraduates Whose Parents Never Enrolled in Postsecondary Education.” (PDF) National Center for Education Statistics. June 1998.
» “Educational Attainment: 2000.” U.S. Census Bureau.
» “Aiding First-Generation Students.” Inside Higher Ed. Jan. 26, 2006.