As discussed in History of "Asian American" / "African American" nomenclature, the term African-American is a euphemism established to refer to Black Americans, but seems to be generally used to refer to those whose families have been in the United States for centuries (many of whose ancestors were originally brought to the U.S. as slaves).

More recently, there seems to have been a significant increase in immigration from Africa, and there are many new Americans from Africa who are somewhat culturally distinct from the "long-term" African-Americans described above.

Is there any existing terminology used to distinguish these two different groups?

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    Approximately, first-generation immigrants applies to those who were born abroad. It's not normally relevant to distinguish between second / third /etc. -generation immigrants (their children / grandchildren / etc., born in the new country), since by then they are (or should be) effectively just part of the general citizenry. But that's a BrE perspective and terminology, which may not apply elsewhere. Jul 5, 2018 at 16:43
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    This is not so much a question of what they ARE called, but what they WILL be called SHOULD be called. The two have African heritages, but entirely different ones, centuries and the European empires apart. The ideal of calling the longer-standing population, many going back to before the revolution just ‘Americans’ as part of the general population is not likely to catch on, even though we do not refer to English or British or Dutch Americans. But why not use the countries of origin: Kenyan or Nigerian Americans? I fear I know the answer.
    – Tuffy
    Jul 5, 2018 at 17:54
  • Tuffy raises a hugely important Question, which at first glance seems entirely secondary but might in fact explain the distinction betwen “long-term” African-Americans and more-recent African immigrants… No, we do not refer to English or British or Dutch Americans, nor to Danish or Swedish or half a dozen other ethnic groups. We do refer to Irish or Italian or Polish Americans, among other ethnic groups. Kenyan or Nigerian would clearly be much more specific than African but where did the distinction arise, please? Jul 5, 2018 at 21:30
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    African-American has become such a euphemism for black (of whatever nation) that a US TV interviewer famously asked Nelson Mandela what it was like being the most famous African-American - to his obvious surprise
    – mgb
    Jul 6, 2018 at 3:55
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    The way it was explained to me was that African-Americans refer to themselves that way because, in many cases, they don't know which culture is theirs -- that info was stripped away forcibly. So, yes, they are part of a new culture, African-American. As for distinguishing between the two groups, because the recent arrivals likely do know their specific origin, I might suggest they would be Kenyan-Americans or Malian-Americans or what-have-you. Jul 17, 2018 at 22:23

1 Answer 1


The question is a request for distinguishing terminology that can be used to distinguish "African-Americans" (defined as Americans of African origin). I would use "multigenerational" African-Americans vs. "newly or recently immigrated/established" African-Americans. That would distinguish the earlier/original group from the latter more contemporary group.


  • good adjective, but 'used' in AmE: rarely
    – lbf
    Jul 26, 2018 at 15:06
  • It came to my mind easily enough. Too much CNN.
    – user22542
    Jul 26, 2018 at 15:39

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