The Research Project
African Americans have traveled globally and lived abroad for centuries. There have been ebbs and flows of this voluntary movement, but we are currently witnessing an unprecedented level of travel and expatriation.
There are thousands of Black expats in Ghana, France, and South Africa, but some African Americans have chosen to go to some of the most remote places like Kazakhstan, or places where there is not a critical mass of African Americans (like Ecuador, New Zealand, Thailand, etc.). Why did they decide to move abroad? Can this be understood as just the latest phase of globalization with the global movement of jobs, people, and information? Is it similar to the four previous “Great Migrations” (Berlin, 2010, Schomburg Center for Research, Dodson & Diouf, 2005) of African Americans; first forcibly taken from Africa to the Americas, second sold and moved from the eastern seaboard to the south, third their voluntary movement north and west, and fourth a movement back to southern states? Are we witnessing a fifth Great Migration? Probably not, because this migration is not in the millions, but the significant number of African Americans living abroad can be understood within the theoretical context of these previous migrations.
It is difficult to fully analyze these questions because there are significant limitations to conducting a representative global survey of African America living abroad. While there have been studies of overseas Americans in the three top European destinations - UK, Germany, and France - (Von Koppenfels, 2014) and in Australia and Israel (Dashefsky, et al., 1992), due to sampling techniques utilized or countries chosen, overseas African Americans have been essentially overlooked. Similarly, while there is an extensive literature on the African Diaspora (where people from various African countries were taken or migrated), the examination of the African American Diaspora (where Black Americans have migrated or lived as an expatriate has been minimal. Some scholars have written extensively on African Americans in a particular country like Ghana (Gaines, 2012), Russia (Carew, 2008), or France (Stovall, 1996). While this research has made important contributions to the field, it has been conducted from a historical perspective with little attention to the experience of African Americans currently living abroad. Furthermore, the experience of African Americans living in one or two countries cannot be generalized to those living in very different parts of the world. There has not been a comprehensive, scientific study of African Americans living abroad.
Not only will the #WeGlobal project address the gaps in the literature on the African American diaspora, but it will also capture new insights on the economic, social, and cultural motivations of African Americans deciding to live abroad. We do know that African Americans abroad represent an extremely diverse group, and thus a comparative lens will be utilized to understand those who are abroad because they are teachers, involved in the arts, work in the foreign service, military, are missionaries, their private company sent them abroad, they play on a sports team, are in Peace Corps, or just wanted to "explore the world”.