Ethiopian Americans

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Ethiopian American
Abyssinian American/አበሻ አሜሪካዊ
Total population
(151,515 (Ethiopia-born, 2007-2011)[1]
68,001 (Ethiopian ancestry)[2] 1000 Ethiopian Jewish Israelis resident in the US.[3])
Regions with significant populations
Washington, D.C. · Los Angeles · Seattle · San Francisco Bay Area · Denver · Dallas · New York City · Atlanta · Houston · Minneapolis · Boston · Columbus, Ohio · Las Vegas · Hartford, Connecticut
oromo · afar · somali · American English
Christian (Ethiopian Orthodox Christian · Catholic · P'ent'ay· Muslim · Jewish

Ethiopian Americans are Americans of Ethiopian descent as well as individuals of American and Ethiopian ancestry.


In 1919, an official Ethiopian goodwill mission was sent to the United States to felicitate the Allied powers on their victory during the First World War.[4] The four-person delegation included Dejazmach Nadew, the nephew of Empress Zawditu and Commander of the Imperial Army, along with Blattengeta Heruy Welde Sellase, Mayor of Addis Ababa, Kentiba Gebru, Mayor of Gondar, and Ato Sinkas, Dejazmach Nadew's secretary.

Ethiopian businesses along Fairfax Avenue in Little Ethiopia, Los Angeles.

After his official coronation, Emperor Haile Selassie sent forth the first wave of Ethiopian students to continue their education abroad. Almost a dozen Ethiopian students likewise went to the United States. They included Makonnen Desta, who studied anthropology at Harvard, and later became an interim Ethiopian Minister of Education, Makonnen Haile, who studied finance at Cornell, and Ingida Yohannes, veterinary medicine at New York. Three other students, Melaku Beyen, Besha Worrid Hapte Wold and Worku Gobena, went to Muskingum, a missionary college in Ohio, two of them later transferring to Ohio State University. Melaku Beyan, who was one of the two who attended Ohio State, later received his medical degree at Howard Medical School in Washington, D.C.

Overall approximately 20,000 Ethiopians moved to the West to achieve higher education and conduct diplomatic missions from 1941 to 1974 under the Selassie’s rule.[5] However, the net movement of permanent immigrants remained low during this period as most temporary immigrants ultimately returned to Ethiopia with a Western education to near assured political success, while the relative stability of the country determined that few Ethiopians would be granted asylum in the United States.[5]

The passing of the 1965 Immigration Act, the Refugee Act of 1980, as well as the Diversity Visa Program of the Immigration Act of 1990, contributed to an increased emigration from Ethiopia to the United States,[6] prompted by political unrest during the Ethiopian Civil War. The majority of Ethiopian immigrants arrived later in the 1990s, following the Eritrean–Ethiopian War. Immigration to the U.S. from Ethiopia during this 1992-2002 period averaged around 5,000 individuals per year.[7]

Since the 1990s, around 1000 Ethiopian Jewish Israelis have settled in the US, with around half of the Ethiopian Israeli community living in New York.[8]

Ethiopian Americans have since established ethnic enclaves in various places around the country, particularly in the Washington D.C. and Minneapolis areas. Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, California has also come to be known as Little Ethiopia, owing to its many Ethiopian businesses and restaurants, as well as a significant concentration of residents of Ethiopian and Eritrean ancestry.[9]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 68,001 people reported Ethiopian ancestry in 2000.[2] Between 2007 and 2011, there were approximately 151,515 Ethiopia-born residents in the United States.[1] According to Aaron Matteo Terrazas, "if the descendants of Ethiopian-born migrants (the second generation and up) are included, the estimates range upwards of 460,000 in the United States (of which approximately 350,000 are in Washington, DC; 96,000 in Los Angeles; and 10,000 in New York)."[5] Unofficial estimates suggest that the Washington, DC area has an Ethiopian population of 150,000 to 250,000.[10][11][12]


An Oromo Lutheran (P'ent'ay) church in Minneapolis.

Many Ethiopian Americans are followers of Abrahamic religions, particularly Christianity and Islam. Of these, the majority of Christians belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. It is the largest Christian denomination in Ethiopia.[6] Most Muslim Ethiopian expatriates adhere to the Sunni school. Other Ethiopian immigrants follow the P'ent'ay denomination and Judaism. There has been a general religious revival among Ethiopian Americans, especially in the Orthodox sect. Church attendance in America has also increased relative to that in Ethiopia,[13] and the institutions serve to preserve aspects of Ethiopian culture among American-born Ethiopians. They also act as networks and support systems crucial to the well-being of both recent immigrants from Ethiopia and more established Ethiopian residents. Ethiopian churches in the US are gathering places for the Ethiopian community, where Ethiopian expatriates come together to pray, socialize, stay in touch, and lend support to one another.[6]

For many individuals living within the Ethiopian diaspora, musical performance acts as a uniting social force that allows Ethiopian immigrants in the US to explore their shared culture and identity, while simultaneously partaking in political expression and advocacy.[13] Through public performances (e.g. cultural events on college campuses), these traditions are shown to communities of outsiders who are interested in Ethiopian music and dance within an American context.[13] Such folkloric performances, often based in religion, feature sacred songs performed in various languages of Ethiopia, with instrumental accompaniments and traditional choreographed dances.[13]

Geographic distribution

Washington, D.C.

Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in Washington, D.C..

By far, the largest concentration of Ethiopians in the United States are found in Washington, D.C. and the local metro area. Some conservative estimates put the number at around 75,000 residents, while other figures go up to 250,000.[14] The Ethiopian Community Center was opened in 1980 to serve the area's Ethiopian residents.[15] Ethiopian businessmen have also helped revitalize the Shaw and U Street vicinities. Although they mainly live in other parts of the capital, these entrepreneurs purchased old residential property, which they then renovated and converted into new office spaces, restaurants and cafes.[16] Additionally, Ethiopian businessmen in the District of Columbia own various parking garages, taxi firms, social establishments, grocery stores and travel agencies.[17]

New York City

New York City has one of the larger concentration of Ethiopians in the United States. Some estimates put the Ethiopian community population at 10,000 while other figures put the total at around 35,000 Ethiopian Americans in the tri-state area. Unlike Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., Ethiopian Americans in New York are not predominantly concentrated in one single area or district. However, a substantial portion of New York-based Ethiopians reside in the diverse borough of the Bronx, particularly in Parkchester. Attracted to the relative safety of the neighborhoods compared to other parts of the Bronx, several Ethiopian Americans also reside in the Pelham Bay and Kingsbridge sections of the borough. Ethiopian Americans can also be found in Washington Heights in Manhattan, and Flushing in Queens.

Around a dozen Ethiopian restaurants operate in New York City, mainly along 10th Avenue in Manhattan.[18] There are three Ethiopian churches in the Bronx: St Mary of Zion Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church at 176th St., and Emmanuel Worship Center at E. Tremont Avenue. Manhattan churches include the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Medhanialem Church and Bethel Ethiopian Evangelical Church. New York is also home to the largest population of Ethiopian Jews in America.[19]

Ethiopian American musician Gonjasufi

New York Abay Ethiopian Sports Club (NYAESC), and its local football team, is located in the Bronx borough of the city.[20] The Ethiopian football team is usually sited in Van Cortlandt Park, where some Ethiopian marathoners are also found practicing, including New York City Marathon finisher Bizunesh Deba.[21]

Tadias Magazine is an Ethiopian American news source based inside New York, founded by its publisher Ethiopian immigrant Liben Eabisa. Other notable Ethiopian Americans residing in New York city include supermodel Liya Kebede, her husband and hedge fund manager Kassy Kebede, Swedish celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, and fashion designer Amsale Aberra.

Other places

Around 4,600 Ethiopian residents were officially registered in the North Texas area. However, DFW International estimates that the Ethiopian community is much larger, with about 30,000 members.[22]

The Ethiopian population in Minnesota is one of the most diverse, with large representation of Amhara and Oromo Ethiopians. Official census shows 13,927 Ethiopian-Americans living in Minnesota.[14]

Notable Ethiopian Americans

Notable U.S. residents of full or partial Ethiopian descent include:

Ronica YebrahAlem Tewoldemedhin @ogPARIS from Atlanta, Georgia

Bisrat BG Haftom @youngworldBG from Atlanta, Georgia passed away 4-6-2013

Yehedga "Mama" Abera from Gojobranda Atlanta, Georgia passed away 3-27-2015

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "PLACE OF BIRTH FOR THE FOREIGN-BORN POPULATION IN THE UNITED STATES, Universe: Foreign-born population excluding population born at sea, 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 16 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Table 1. First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-04-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Mozgovaya, Natasha (2008-04-02). "Focus U.S.A.-Israel News – Haaretz Israeli News source". Retrieved 2010-12-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Uhlig, Siegbert (2007). Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N, Volume 3. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 20. ISBN 344705607X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Terrazas, Aaron (June 2007). "Beyond Regional Circularity: The Emergence of an Ethiopian Diaspora". Migration Information Source. Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved 2 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Chacko, Elizabeth (October 2003). "Identity and Assimilation Among Young Ethiopian Immigrants in Metropolitan Washington". Geographical Review. 93 (4): 491–506. doi:10.1111/j.1931-0846.2003.tb00044.x. Retrieved 15 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Powell, John (2009). Encyclopedia of North American Immigration. Infobase Publishing. p. 94. ISBN 143811012X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Mozgovaya, Natasha (2008-04-02). "Focus U.S.A.-Israel News – Haaretz Israeli News source". Retrieved 2010-12-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Ember, Melvin (1997). American Immigrant Cultures: Builders of a Nation. Simon & Schuster Macmillan. p. 264. ISBN 0028972147.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Nicholls, Walter (2005-05-18). "Washington's Little Ethiopia". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-11-15. The Washington region, with its 200,000 people of Ethiopian descent, has the largest Ethiopian population outside of the country itself, according to an unofficial estimate by the embassy.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Showalter, Misty. "Inside Washington D.C.'s 'Little Ethiopia'". CNN. The Ethiopian population in the Washington, D.C. metro area is the largest in the U.S. Tutu Belay, who has done extensive research on the population for her business, estimates it to be about 250,000 -- though other estimates are much lower.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Fernandez-Pereda, Cristina (2008-07-06). "Little Ethiopia: A Thriving Community in D.C." New America Media. Retrieved 2011-11-25. The number of Ethiopian citizens in the Washington, D.C. metro area varies all the time and no one has exact data on this population. According to the Ethiopian Embassy estimates, around 200,000 citizens in the metro area are of Ethiopian descent. The Ethiopian Community Center estimates around 150,000 people from the African country.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Shelemay, Kay Kaufman; Steven Kaplan (2006). "Introduction". Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies. 15 (2/3): 191–213. doi:10.1353/dsp.2011.0068. Retrieved 16 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Shelemay" defined multiple times with different content
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Ethiopians in Minnesota". Retrieved 18 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "About Us". Ethiopian Community Center. Retrieved 13 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Marie Price, Lisa Benton-Short (2008). Migrants to the Metropolis: The Rise of Immigrant Gateway Cities. Syracuse University Press. pp. 216-217 & 221. ISBN 0815631863. Retrieved 13 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Balgopal, Pallassana R. (2013). Social Work Practice with Immigrants and Refugees. Columbia University Press. p. 136. ISBN 0231504187. Retrieved 13 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "ethiopian restaurants nyc - Google Maps". Retrieved 18 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Around 1000 Ethiopian Jews in North America, 500 in New York
  20. "NY Abay Ethiopian Sports Club Home". Retrieved 18 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "The ecstasy and the agony of Ethiopian marathoners - The Bronx Ink". Retrieved 18 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "How Dallas Got So Many Ethiopian Restaurants". Retrieved 18 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>