Jamaican American

Jamaican American

Infobox Ethnic group
group =flagicon|Jamaica Jamaican American flagicon|USA

caption = Notable Jamaican Americans:
Colin Powell, David Paterson,
Anthony G. Brown, Alicia Keys, Paul Hewitt, Yvette D. Clarke, Sanya Richards, Tyson Beckford, Olivia
poptime = Jamaican 736,513 Americans cite web |url=http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/DTTable?_bm=y&-context=dt&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF3_U&-mt_name=DEC_2000_SF3_U_PCT018&-CONTEXT=dt&-tree_id=403&-redoLog=true&-all_geo_types=N&-geo_id=01000US&-search_results=01000US&-format=&-_lang=en&-SubjectID=14595646|title=?] 0.3% of the US population
popplace = New York City, South Florida, Connecticut
langs = American English, Jamaican English, Jamaican Creole
rels = Predominantly Christianity
related = Jamaican Canadians, Chinese Jamaicans, Japanese Jamaican, Jamaicans of African ancestry, Jamaican British, Indo-Jamaicans, Jamaican Australian

Jamaican Americans are Americans of Jamaican heritage or Jamaican-born people who live in the United States of America. American citizenship is not a prerequisite of being a Jamaican American as permanent residents are also given this title.The largest proportion of Jamaicans live in New York City which has various of other Caribbean cultural elements such as food and music. There is also a community of Jamaican Americans residing in South Florida and Connecticut.

After 1838, European colonies in the Caribbean with expanding sugar industries imported large numbers of immigrants to meet their acute labor shortage. Large numbers of Jamaicans were recruited to work in Panama and Costa Rica in the 1850s. After slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, American planters imported temporary workers, called "swallow migrants," to harvest crops on an annual basis. These workers, many of them Jamaicans, returned to their countries after harvest. Between 1881 and the beginning of World War I, the United States recruited over 250,000 workers from the Caribbean, 90,000 of whom were Jamaicans, to work on the Panama Canal. During both world wars, the United States again recruited Jamaican men for service on various American bases in the region. In comparison, the Jamaican American population is larger than the Jamaican Canadian and Jamaican British populations, however Canada and the UK have larger percentages of Jamaican people than the USA.

ignificant Immigration Waves

Since the turn of the twentieth century, three distinct waves of Caribbean immigration into the United States have occurred — most of these immigrants came from Jamaica. The first wave took place between 1900 and the 1920s, bringing a modest number of Caribbean immigrants. Official black immigration increased from 412 in 1899 to 12,245 in 1924, although the actual number of black aliens entering the United States yearly was twice as high. By 1930, 178,000 documented first-generation blacks and their children lived in the United States. About 100,000 were from the British West Indies, including Jamaica. The second and weakest immigration wave occurred between the 1930s and the new immigration policy of the mid-1960s. The McCarran-Walter Act reaffirmed and upheld the quota bill, which discriminated against black immigrants and allowed only 100 Jamaicans into the United States annually. During this period, larger numbers of Jamaicans migration to Britain rather than to the United States due to the immigration restrictions.

The final and largest wave of immigration began in 1965 and continues to the present. This wave began after Britain began to restrict the number of immigrants it accepted from the newly independent, black-majority former colonies, whereas prior to that, as citizens of a Commonwealth of Nations country, Jamaicans and other West Indian immigrants enjoyed a relatively unrestricted ability to move to the United Kingdom. The 1965 Hart-Celler Immigration Reform Act changed American immigration policy and, inadvertently, opened the way for a surge in immigration from the Caribbean. In 1976, Jamaicans again relocated to the United States in large numbers after Congress increased immigration from the Western Hemisphere to a maximum of 20,000 persons per country. Although about 10,000 Jamaicans migrated to the United States legally from 1960 to 1965, the number skyrocketed in succeeding years — 62,700 (1966-1970), 61,500 (1971-1975), 80,600 (1976-1980) and 81,700 (1981-1984) — to an aggregate of about 300,000 documented immigrants in just under a quarter of a century.

At present, Jamaicans are the largest group of American immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean. However, it is difficult to verify the exact number of Jamaican Americans in this country. The 1990 census placed the total number of documented Jamaican Americans at 435,025, but the high Jamaican illegal alien phenomenon and the Jamaican attitude toward census response may increase that number to 800,000 to 1,000,000 Jamaicans living in the United States. Government statistics report that 186,430 Jamaicans live in New York, but the number is closer to 600,000.Fact|date=August 2008

Jamaican migration became so large that it caused a national crisis in Jamaica. The exodus has resulted in a serious "brain drain" and an acute shortage of professionals, such as skilled workers, technicians, doctors, lawyers, and managers, in essential services in Jamaica. For example, the mail often takes one to three months to reach its final destination because of a shortage of postal service supervisors. During the 1970s and early 1980s about 15 percent of the population left the country. In the early 1990s the government began offering incentives to persons with technical, business, and managerial skills to return to Jamaica for short periods of time to aid in management and technical skills training.

Reasons for migrating

Jamaicans migrate to the United States for many socio-economic reasons. Migration is encouraged by economic hardship caused by a failing economy based upon plantation agriculture, lack of economic diversity, and scarcity of professional and skilled jobs. Since the nineteenth century Jamaica has had a very poor land distribution track record. The uneven allotment of arable crown lands and old plantations left farmers without a sufficient plot for subsistence or cash crop farming, which contributed to high unemployment statistics and economic hardship. During the 1970s the standard of living declined due to economic inflation and low salaries. When companies and corporations lost confidence in Michael Manley's democratic socialist government and his anti-American rhetoric and close business ties to Cuba, the flight of capital from Jamaica and the shift in U.S. capital investments worsened the situation. Jamaica's huge foreign debt and the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) restructuring of the economy further exacerbated the island's economic woes in the 1980s and 1990s. An increase in crime, fueled by unemployment and aggravated by the exporting of criminals from the United States back to Jamaica, forced thousands of Jamaicans to flee the island for safety. Today, unemployment and under-employment continue to rise above 50 percent, wages continue to fall, the dollar weakens, and the cost of goods and services continues to increase.

The Jamaican mentality that one must "go ah foreign" and "return to him country" to "show off" evidence of success has become a rite of passage for thousands of Jamaicans. This began when the United States imported Jamaicans to work on various projects in the 1800s and early twentieth century. Before long, Jamaicans saw migration as an attractive solution to the harsh social and economic conditions on island. In addition, many Jamaican students and trainees study at American institutions. Not all return to Jamaica upon completion of their studies. Many stay because of the lack of job opportunities at home and an entrenched British-colonial bias among Jamaica's elite against American education.


Of the Jamaicans documented in the 1990 census, 410,933 reported to have at least one Jamaican ancestry. Of this number 94.5 percent are first generation Jamaican immigrants, and the remaining 5.5 percent are of second generation or children of Jamaican descent. The regional composition is as follows: 59 percent live in New York and the Northeast; 4.8 percent in the Midwest; 30.6 percent in the Southern United States, particularly South Florida; and 5.6 percent on the West Coast. The New York metropolitan area and Florida (especially South Florida) have the largest number of Jamaican immigrants in the United States and Florida are home to the highest number of illegal Jamaicans whereas most Legal immigrants tend to reside in Brooklyn. Jamaicans refer to Miami and Brooklyn colloquially as "Kingston 22" and "Little Jamaica" respectively. Accessibility, family connections, the help of friends or church, jobs, group psychology (including gangs), access to college and university education, and weather conditions explain the heavy concentration of Jamaican immigrants in Brooklyn, NY, Miami-Dade County, Broward County, FL (Ft. Lauderdale area), as well as along the East Coast.

Jamaicans have a saying, "Anywhere you go in the world you meet a Jamaican." According to the 1990 census, there are Jamaicans in every state in the Union. The census shows that regionally, there are 30,327 in New England, 223,310 in the middle Atlantic, 18,163 in east north central, 2,698 in the west north central, 121,260 in the south Atlantic, 2,882 in the east south central, 9,117 in the west south central, 2,696 in the mountain region, and 21,571 in the Pacific region.

US communities with high percentages of people of Jamaican ancestry

The top 25 US communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Jamaican ancestry are: [cite web |url=http://www.epodunk.com/ancestry/Jamaican.html |title=Ancestry Map of Jamaican Communities |publisher=Epodunk.com |accessdate=2008-08-03]

# Blue Hills, Connecticut (neighborhood) 23.90%
# Lauderdale Lakes, Florida 18.80%
# Lauderhill, Florida 17.60%
# South Floral Park, New York 15.50%
# Miramar, Florida 15.40%
# Bloomfield, Connecticut and Mount Vernon, New York 12.90%
# Lakeview, New York 12.70%
# North Lauderdale, Florida 11.10%
# Uniondale, New York 11.0%
# El Portal, Florida 8.50%
# Roosevelt, New York 8.2%
# Pembroke Park, Florida 8.0%
# North Valley Stream, New York and Hartford, Connecticut 7.90%
# Sunrise, Florida 7.60%
# Miami Gardens, Broward County, Florida 6.30%
# North Amityville, New York 6.10%
# South Miami Heights, Florida 6.0%
# Hempstead, New York and Elmont, New York 5.90%
# Lake Park, Florida and Carol City, Florida 5.80%
# East Orange, New Jersey, Gordon Heights, New York, Ives Estates, Florida, and Golden Glades, Florida 5.70%
# North Miami Beach, Florida 5.50%
# New Cassel, New York 5.30%
# Bronx, New York and Chillum, Maryland 5.20%
# Pembroke Pines, Florida and Wheatley Heights, New York 5.10%
# Englewood, New Jersey 5.0%

U.S. communities with the most residents born in Jamaica

Top 50 U.S. communities with the most residents born in Jamaica are: [cite web |url=http://www.city-data.com/top2/h137.html |title=Top 101 cities with the most residents born in Jamaica (population 500+) |publisher=city-data.com |accessdate=2008-08-03]

# Melrose Park, FL 19.6%
# Norland, FL 18.5%
# Blue Hills, CT 18.3%
# Lauderdale Lakes, FL 16.9%
# Andover, FL 15.0%
# Lauderhill, FL 14.8%
# Utopia, FL 13.1%
# Palmetto Estates, FL 12.6%
# Miramar, FL 12.5%
# Scott Lake, FL 12.3%
# South Floral Park, NY 12.1%
# Mount Vernon, NY 11.2%
# Bloomfield, CT 11.1%
# North Lauderdale, FL 9.7%
# Fort Devens, MA 9.3%
# [http://www.city-data.com/city/Northwest-Dade-Florida.html Northwest Dade, FL] 8.5%
# Uniondale, NY 8.2%
# St. George, FL 8.1%
# East Garden City, NY 7.7%
# El Portal, FL 7.5%
# Silver Springs Shores, FL 7.5%
# Washington Park, FL 7.2%
# North Valley Stream, NY 6.7%
# Sunrise, FL 6.6%
# Harlem, FL 6.4%
# Lakeview, NY 6.2%
# Opa-locka North, FL 6.1%
# Hartford, CT 6.0%
# Roosevelt, NY 5.9%
# Westview, FL 5.7%
# Tangelo Park, FL 5.5%
# Miami Gardens, Broward County, FL 5.5%
# Pembroke Park, FL 5.3%
# Lake Park, FL 5.2%
# Ives Estates, FL 5.1%
# North Amityville, NY 5.1%
# Canal Point, FL 5.1%
# Rock Island, FL 5.1%
# Boulevard Gardens, FL 5.0%
# North Miami Beach, FL 5.0%
# Lake Lucerne, FL 4.9%
# Golden Glades, FL 4.9%
# Broadview-Pompano Park, FL 4.8%
# Carol City, FL 4.7%
# East Orange, NJ 4.7%
# Pembroke Pines, FL 4.4%
# Stacey Street, FL 4.3%
# Mangonia Park, FL 4.3%
# Three Lakes, FL 4.2%
# Elmont, NY 4.2%


Many Jamaican festivals celebrate Jamaica's rich musical tradition. In the 1960s, Count Ossie merged native Jamaican, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-American musical rhythms with rock and other influences to create a distinctively black music called "reggae." This music, which the Rastafarians and Bob Marley popularized, is a plea for liberation and a journey into black consciousness and African pride. Like calypso, reggae began as a working-class medium of expression and social commentary. Reggae is the first distinctly Caribbean music to become global in scope. Each August, Jamaica stages its internationally acclaimed music festival at the Jamworld Center in Kingston. Over the five-day period, the premier music festival of the Caribbean attracts over 200,000 visitors. Each year it features top reggae stars like Ziggy Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Third World, and Stevie Wonder. This is followed immediately by the Reggae Sunfest at the Bob Marley Performing Center in Montego Bay. In the post Lenten period, the streets of Kingston come alive to the pulsating sounds of calypso and soca music. For nine emotionally charged days, local and international artists treat revelers to the best of reggae, soca and calypso "under the tents." During this time, thousands of glittering costumed celebrants revel and dance through the streets in a festive mood. The National Mento Yard is kicked off in Manchester in October with a potpourri of traditional and cultural folk forms which have contributed to Jamaica's rich cultural heritage. Many of these cultural events are observed by Jamaican Americans in local public celebrations or in the privacy of their homes.

Many Jamaican Americans have also been very influential and successful in rap music. Famous rappers such as Busta Rhymes, Notorious B.I.G., Slick Rick, and KRS-ONE are all of Jamaican heritage.

Dances and songs

Jamaica's most popular musical forms are Reggae and Dancehall. There is also others such as "dub poetry" or chanted verses, Ska, and Rocksteady, with its emotionally charged, celebrative beat. Jamaican Americans also listen to a great variety of other music such as: jazz, calypso, soca, ska, rap, classical music, gospel, and "high-church" choirs.


The national dish in Jamaica is ackee and saltfish (codfish), but curried goat and rice, and fried fish and bammy (a flat, baked cassava bread) are just as popular and delicious. A large variety of dishes are known for their spicy nature. Patties, which can either be mild or hot and spicy, turtle soup, Jerk chicken, and pepper pot may contain meats such as pork and beef, as well as greens such as okra and kale. Spices such as pimento or allspice, ginger, and peppers are used commonly in a number of dishes. Other Jamaican foods are: plantain, rice and peas, cow-foot, goat head, jerk chicken, pork, oxtail soup, stew peas and rice, mackerel rundown, liver and green bananas, calaloo and dumplings, mannish water (also known as goat head soap), cow cod soap, and hard dough bread and pastries.

Dessert is usually fruit or a dish containing fruit. An example is matrimony, which is a mixture of orange sections, star apples, or guavas in coconut cream with guava cheese melted over it. Other desserts are cornmeal pudding, sweet potato pudding, totoes, plantain tarts, and many other "sweet-tooth" favorites. Coffee and tea are popular nonalcoholic beverages, as are carrot juice, roots, and Irish or sea moss, while rum, Red Stripe Beer, Dragon and Guinness stouts are the national alcoholic beverages. In Miami and Brooklyn, especially in the neighborhood of Flatbush along Flatbush, Nostrand, Utica, and Church Avenues, one sees groceries filled with a variety of Caribbean cuisines, including sugar cane, jelly coconut, and yams.

Traditional costumes

Jamaica's traditional folk costume for women is a bandana skirt worn with a white blouse with a ruffled neck and sleeves, adorned with embroidery depicting various Jamaican images. A head tie made of the same bandana material is also worn. Men wear a shirt that is also made of the same fabric. The colors of the national flag are black, green, and gold. However, because of the popularity of the clothes and colors of Rastafari, many people mistake Rastas' colors (red, green, and gold) as Jamaica's national colors. Jamaicans wear their costumes on Independence Day, National Heroes Day, and other national celebrations. In New York City Jamaican Americans participate in the Caribbean Labor day parade in Brooklyn annually and dress in lavish and colorful costumes during the Brooklyn celebration along Eastern Parkway.

Health issues

There are no documented medical problems that are unique to Jamaicans. In the 1950s and 1960s, polio appeared in some communities but was later contained by medical treatment. Since the 1980s, drug abuse and alcoholism have also plagued Jamaicans. Crime and economic hardship have taken a heavy toll on the health and life expectancy in Jamaica during the last two decades.

In 1994, the government of Jamaica admitted that most violent crimes committed in the country are drug related. Many of the Caribbean drug kingpins in Brooklyn and Jamaica were trained in the slums of Kingston. The distribution and use of marijuana (also called ganja in Patois) and crack cocaine accompany Jamaican gang members to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, California, and West Virginia, thus perpetuating drug abuse problems.


A number of Jamaicans and Jamaican Americans have excelled in international competition and carried home many trophies. Sir Herbert McDonald was an Olympian; Donald Quarrie won the 200 and the 4 X 100 meters Olympic Gold Medal; Merlene Ottey won the 200 and the 4 X 100 meters; Usain Bolt Won Gold medals in the 100m (9.69), 200m (19.30) and 4x100 relays all in record time in the 2008 Beijing olympics. Some of the world's most outstanding cricketers were Jamaicans; they include: O. J. Collier Smith, Alfred Valentine, Roy Gilcrist, Michael Holding, Easton McMorris, Franze Alexander, and George Headley, who was born in Panama in 1909, transported to Cuba, grew up in Jamaica and lived in the United States.

List of prominent Jamaican-Americans


* Tyson Beckford [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/ilove/jamaica/superstars.shtml BBC - Cult - I Love Jamaica - Superstars ] ]
* Michael Bentt
* Corbin Bleu (1989 - ) film/television actor ("High School Musical") [Bleu - [http://www.corbinbleu.com/journal.html] "I'm a spicy blend of Jamaican (my dad) and Italian (my mom)."]
* Dulé Hill
* Sheryl Lee Ralph [ [http://www.jamaicans.com/culture/jamican-hall-of-fame-actr.shtml Jamaican Hall Of Fame: Actress, Sheryl Lee Ralph (Jamaica) ] ]
* Camille McDonald
* Delroy Lindo [http://www.jamaicanpride.com/Celebrities/index.htm] ]
* Grace Jones
* Carl Lumbly
* Madge Sinclair
* Shari Belafonte
* Keshia Knight Pulliam


* Barrington Irving


* Karin Taylor


* Special Ed
* Thom Bell
* Sandra Denton
* Harry Belafonte [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/ilove/jamaica/superstars1.shtml BBC - Cult - I Love Jamaica - Superstars ] ]
* Bushwick Bill
* Grace Jones [ [http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/GraceJones.html Grace Jones ] ]
* Alicia Keys [ [http://top40.about.com/od/artistsdk/p/aliciakeys.htm] "...and her father is Jamaican."]
* Sean Kingston
* will.i.am [ [http://www.artistfacts.com/detail.php?id=150 Black Eyed Peas Artistfacts ] ]
* Busta Rhymes
* Winston Grennan
* Grace Jones
* Beat Prophets
* Canibus
* Chubb Rock
* Prodigy (rapper)
* Ernie Smith
* Heavy D
* Kool DJ Herc
* Mya (singer)
* Notorious BIG
* Slick Rick
* Renee Neufville
* KRS-One
* Shawn Mims
* Ill Will
* Brick & Lace
* Sean Paul
* Berin 'old dog' Francois


*Ramon Bailey (1984 - ) soccer midfielder and forward, who played for the MetroStars of Major League Soccer [ [http://www.bigapplesoccer.com/columns/butler.php?article_id=2110] "Ramon Bailey... the Jamaican born Bronx resident decided to pack his bags and head to France."]
* Jeff Cunningham -Major League Soccer and United States national soccer team player
* Chili Davis - Major League Baseball star [ [http://www.nabihoops.com/ask_the_pros.html Ask the Pros - Mark West, Chili Davis & Bo Jackson ] ]
* Robin Fraser -Major League Soccer and United States national soccer team player
* Patrick Ewing - NBA basketball player [ [http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20060507/out/out1.html Jamaica Gleaner News - Dr Answorth Allen - BOY GENIUS MAKES IT BIG MEDICINE - Sunday | May 7, 2006 ] ]
* Patrick Ewing, Jr. - Collegiate basketball player
* Ben Gordon - NBA basketball player
* Rolando Roomes - Major League Baseball player
* Devon White - Major League Baseball star
* Sanya Richards - USA Sprinter

Public service

* Colin Powell - 65th United States Secretary of State [ [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,65286,00.html FOXNews.com - Belafonte Slams Powell - Celebrity Gossip | Entertainment News | Arts And Entertainment ] ]
* David Paterson - 55th Governor of New York


* Louis Farrakhan - leader of the Nation of Islam [Louis Farrakhan]

External links

* [http://www.najaa.org najaa]
* [http://jamaicanamericanassoc.com jamaicanamericanassoc]


name = Jamaican diaspora
title = Jamaican diaspora
list1 =

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