African Americans searching for the African roots of their culture should begin by understanding that only about five percent of between 11 and 12 million enslaved Africans were brought to North America or to the United States. Approximately 95 percent of the people exported from Africa were sold to "tropical America," the Caribbean basin. Most of these exported Africans were taken from West and West-Central Africa. The majority, perhaps more than 40 percent, came from West-Central Africa, the Congo-Angola region now known as contemporary Angola and the Republic of the Congo.

As much as 33 percent of the slave population came from West Africa. The majority of the ancestors of African Americans, it seems, came from a part of Africa bounded by the river Senegal in the North and by Angola in the South. The area of catchment, the known area from which the slaves were taken, extended along the West African coastal line from Senegal to Angola and perhaps as far as 500 miles into the interior. That area included a variety of ethnic groups. Therefore, one of the first points to recognize in tracing the African roots of African-American culture is that enslaved Africans sold to North America came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

About 25 percent came from ethnic groups such as the Ba kongo, the Tio, and the Mbundu, groups from the Congo-Angola region. About 23 percent came from the Yoruba, the Fon, the Nude, and the Ibo, ethnic groups from an area from the Benin River to Cape Lopez, now contemporary Nigeria, Toga, and Gabon. About 16 percent came from the Al kans, who inhabited the Gold Coast, now contemporary Ghana. The Wolof, the Ful be, and the Serer, Senegambia n captives, made up about 13 percent. Another six percent of captives came from Sierra Leone, four percent from the Blight of Benin, and less than two percent from Mozambique and Madagascar. All of these people brought with them their own ideas about life, their own cultures, and their own cosmology.

Many of them spoke different languages, worshiped different gods, and had different ways of socializing their children. So once they crossed the Atlantic, the problem that they confronted was how to forge, so to speak, a oneness, how to create some common ground out of this very diverse and heterogeneous background. So even though Africa is the most heterogeneous of the continents, the Black people who created the United States came from a variety of backgrounds and cosmologies. They began creating a culture when they began the process of establishing some basis for communicating with one another, interacting with one another, and forging a future..