South African Americans are Americans who have full or partial ancestry from South Africa. According to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, there are 78,616 people born in South Africa that currently live in the United States. The majority are White South African, most of them being of European ancestry (including Jews) and some with Asian (Chinese and Indian) and African ancestry.
Free South Africans began arriving in the United States as early as the late 19th century. The first groups were white South African (Afrikaner) miners who arrived in California. Many South Africans, typically of European Anglo-Saxon heritage, came in the mid-20th Century. Immigration by black Africans was limited. Though the standard of living for individuals of dark complexion in South Africa was higher than for most people living on the African continent, political and economic conditions still made immigration difficult, as Negroids were forced to escape to other African nations before they could emigrate to the country of their choice.
Following the Soweto student uprising in 1976, there was a significant increase in South African emigration to the US. Many of the immigrants were South African Jews, who formed a community in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Although emigration policies during apartheid made immigration difficult, there were a small number of black students and political refugees who emigrated to the US. During the 1980s and 1990s, many South Africans entered the US for political reasons, to be with family members, or to access professional opportunities not available in their home country.
The largest wave of South African immigration was in 1994, after the election of Nelson Mandela as president. Many white South Africans, especially Afrikaners, emigrated out of fear for their safety after the acquisition of political power in the black population.
The ending of apartheid brought significant waves of South Africans, most of British descent with a significant number of Portuguese heritage.
Although the majority of South Africans who emigrated went to Australia and New Zealand, countries with similar cultural and linguistic heritages, as well as similar climates and latitude positioning were hotspots. There were also a large number of South African immigrants that went to the US. Many white South Africans, both before and after the end of apartheid, emigrated to Midwestern states such as Minnesota and Illinois. Atlanta, Georgia, has a large population of South African Jews. Also, a number of South Africans live in New York City and Mid-Atlantic states such as Maryland. Many South African immigrants in the US are white people of European origin. Of the 82,000 South Africans that were living in this country between 2008–09, about 11,000 of them were Black South Africans. In the 2000 census, 509 South African Americans reported their ethnic origins as Zulu.
The majority of these immigrants are English speaking, with a moderate proportion of these being South African Jews. In the US, South Africans in general—both white and black—live in the US individually, rather than in communities of South African Americans. Most South Africans in the US are currently settled in San Diego, California, approximately 20,000 people. Smaller populations reside elsewhere in the western US, including the Pacific Northwest.
Indaba ("discussion" in Zulu) is an example of an organization set up by South Africans to promote community involvement. It was founded in the 1990s and sponsors community events and activities. In addition, this organization allows the exchange of information through a web site and a mailing list, keeping South Africans informed about international and local events. The South African consulate in Chicago has close ties with many expatriates and hosts regular events and speakers, including an annual celebration of Freedom Day on 27 April. In 2001, the hosts founded the African Group of the U.S. Women's Action to boost the knowledge and understanding of South Africa among Americans. The South Africans are also in many other forums, such as informal parties, religious activities and rugby matches.