Mapping Africans in Chicago

This map shows where African immigrants and refugees live in Chicago. Africans in Chicago are scattered all over the city and suburbs. Some areas have more concentrations of African immigrants and refugees than others. Chicago neighborhoods with the largest numbers of Africans include: Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park, and Albany Park on the Northside and Avalon, Chatham, Roseland, and South Chicago on the Southside. Large numbers also reside in Aurora, Elgin, Wheaton, Bolingbrook, Montgomery, Romeoville, Harvey, South Holland, and other suburbs. While the lack of a common neighborhood inhibits the efforts of African migrants to network with each other, it increases the potential for collaboration with other communities that share similar goals and interests. To see maps showing changes in the overall immigrant population of Chicago, visit the website of Rob Paral and Associates.

Why Chicago?

According to a study conducted by the United African Organization in 2009 – African Immigrants and Refugees in Illinois: Needs Assessment and Demographic Study – the majority of African immigrants and refugees (79%) interviewed, had been in Illinois since their arrival in the United States. People came to the U.S. seeking education (32%), to reunite with their family members (24,8%), to escape an unstable political situation (19.1%) and to find more promising economic opportunities (17,2%).

Immigrants who started off in other parts of the United States moved to Illinois for a number of reasons. A large proportion of those who moved did so to search for employment opportunities (46,9%). Others came to Illinois to reunite with family members or to continue their education. Others, still, were attracted to the city of Chicago in particular, and what they believed it to offer.

Mapping Lives

The Africans in Chicago Oral History Project seeks to flesh out the results of the earlier African Immigrants and Refugees in Illinois: Needs Assessment and Demographic Study, with qualitative research. The project aims to capture some of the specific experiences that African immigrants and refugees to Chicago faced. This information is not important only as a guide to future research; it also forms part of the United African Organization’s public education initiative. The American public needs to see the successes as well as the challenges of African countries, and Africans themselves, if they are to perceive Africans as potential partners in advocacy around common issues.