According to the 2000 census, the United States was a nation of 281,421,906 people living and working within an area of 3.7 million square miles. This population count makes the United States the third most populated country in the world. Historically, the United States has attracted immense numbers of immigrants from around the globe. Three of the largest ethnic/racial groups in America besides non-Hispanic whites are the African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans.
African Americans are a racial group whose dominant ancestry is from sub-Sahara West Africa. Recent black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are also sometimes classified as African Americans. However, these groups, especially first and second-generation immigrants often have cultural practices, histories, and languages that differ from those African Americans born in the United States. Thus, Caribbean and African immigrants may or may not choose to identify with the African American community.
According to the 2000 census 34.7 million African Americans live in the United States, making up 12.3 percent of the population. African American history is intertwined with that of blacks in Latin America and the Caribbean. Like other blacks in the western hemisphere, the vast majority of African Americans were brought to North America as slaves between the early 1700's and 1800's. As slaves, they were considered the property of their owners and had no rights. After the American Revolution, changing economic conditions resulted in the decline of slavery in the Northern states. However, the cultivation of tobacco and cotton encouraged the growth of slavery in the Southern states. By 1860, 4 million slaves accounted for one-third of the total population of the South. Approximately 500,000 free blacks lived throughout the United States, roughly half residing in the South. .
In the North, many free blacks became dedicated to ending slavery and bringing about equality for blacks.