52,069 (4.0%, 2010)29,307 (2.3%, African alone, 2010)
|Regions with significant populations|
|English, Hawaiian, Portuguese|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Cape Verdean, African American, Afro-Caribbean|
The Africans in Hawaii, also known as Pōpolo, are a minority of 4.0% of the population and 2.3% are of African descent only.
The first Africans to arrive in Hawai'i were deckhands on merchant and whaling ships, and came from Cape Verde, the United States (African Americans), and the Caribbean (West Indian Americans). These early Africans ended their maritime careers and settled in Hawai'i. A number of them were successful musicians, business men, and respected government officials. One American-born African was Anthony D. Allen (1774–1835) an ex-slave. He came to Hawaii in 1810 as a whaler. He became a steward of Kamehameha I and within a decade came to own twelve houses and a farm, and run a boarding house, bowling alley and hospital. The first two leaders of the Royal Hawaiian Band under Kamehameha III: Oliver and George Washington Hyatt (1815–1870) were also African-Americans.
Prior to independence in 1975, many Cape Verdeans emigrated to Hawaii from drought-stricken Portuguese Cape Verde, formerly an overseas province of Portugal. Because these people arrived using their Portuguese passports, they were registered as Portuguese immigrants by the authorities.
Following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the Hawaiian government became interested in the prospect of contracting freed slaves for labor in Hawaii. The thought of the four million slaves suddenly thrust onto the open market prompt Hawaiian Foreign Minister Robert Crichton Wyllie to write to a prominent friend in Boston, "We could perhaps admit with advantage to ourselves, say 20,000 freed Negroes, pay them the wages and give them the treatment of free men." Although nothing came out of it due to the inability of President Abraham Lincoln to enforce the law in the South.
By 1910 there were still only 695 Africans in Hawaii of whom 537 were multiracial. Following the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy by White plantation elites, an unofficial race-class system was established with “Whites” at the top, “Browns” in the middle, and “Yellows” at the bottom. Fortunately for the Africans their dark skin categorized them as “Brown” people, which were mostly Hawaiians and Polynesians. This allowed them to ascend to the working and middle classes. Since annexation the immigration barriers were lifted and attempts were made to bring laborers of African descent from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama to Hawaii to work the sugarcane plantations. The logistics of getting Africans to Hawaii proved too difficult to be a practical source of labor, 300 made the journey. Many did not stay on plantations after their contracts expired finding Hawaii’s plantation life deplorable and better off returning to the plantations of the Southern United States, but most could not afford to pay to leave Hawaii. Despite the horrid conditions at the bottom of society, most Africans were acquainted with the Western world either in the United States or Colonial Africa as Hawaii was Americanized under the Territorial period Africans could identify opportunities that went unnoticed by other groups not acquainted with the Western system. Many skilled African-Americans immigrated to escape the racism on the mainland and not be denied work at their trade or profession. Although racial hostilities existed with Whites, Whites were a minority and found more acceptance and less, but existing, discrimination between Coloreds than the divide between White and Colored. Alice A. Ball earned her master's degree at the University of Hawaii and taught there as a chemistry instructor. She discovered the Ball Method a symptomatic treatment for leprosy that bears her namesake. One of the most iconic figures was Hawaii born Peter Hose (1881–1925) known as the “Hula Cop” joined the Honolulu Police Department becoming the first police officer of African ancestry in Hawaii, where he served for 18 years.
Once again with the World War II the military drew African-Americans to Hawaii 600 ship workers and thousands of soldiers arrived. The West Loch Disaster occurred on May 21, 1944 when the LST-353’s cargo of ammunition and fuel ignited killing 163 several of which were African-Americans. Subsequent wars in Asia continued to bring Africans through Hawaii. The result of military movement was that many after leaving the service returned to live in Hawaii.
After the Second World War many residents of color in Hawaii were educated by the G.I. bill belligerent towards the racial stratification. Several Africans including Frank M. Davis were able to relate to the plight of the African race on the US mainland and participated in the “Bloodless Revolution” that overthrew the rule of Hawaii’s White minority and the race-class structure of the Territory.