The continent of Africa is thought to be the site of origin of all modern humans and is the more recent origin of millions of African Americans. Although Africa has the highest levels of human genetic diversity both within and between populations, it is under-represented in studies of human genetics. Recent advances have been made in understanding the origins of modern humans within Africa, the rate of adaptations due to positive selection, the routes taken in the first migrations of modern humans out of Africa, and the degree of admixture with archaic populations. Africa is also in dire need of effective medical interventions, and studies of genetic variation in Africans will shed light on the genetic basis of diseases and resistance to infectious diseases. Thus, we have tremendous potential to learn about human variation and evolutionary history and to positively impact human health care from studies of genetic diversity in Africa.