Charting the ancestry of African Americans

Am J Hum Genet. 2005 Oct;77(4):676-80. doi: 10.1086/491675. Epub 2005 Aug 11.


The Atlantic slave trade promoted by West European empires (15th-19th centuries) forcibly moved at least 11 million people from Africa, including about one-third from west-central Africa, to European and American destinations. The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome has retained an imprint of this process, but previous analyses lacked west-central African data. Here, we make use of an African database of 4,860 mtDNAs, which include 948 mtDNA sequences from west-central Africa and a further 154 from the southwest, and compare these for the first time with a publicly available database of 1,148 African Americans from the United States that contains 1,053 mtDNAs of sub-Saharan ancestry. We show that >55% of the U.S. lineages have a West African ancestry, with <41% coming from west-central or southwestern Africa. These results are remarkably similar to the most up-to-date analyses of the historical record.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Humans


  • DNA, Mitochondrial