Seattle has a growing East African community with approximately 39,000 African-born individuals residing within the city limits.
A majority of Seattle's African-born population comes from Ethiopia and Somalia, with Eritrea, Sudan, and neighboring countries represented as well. HOAS began to serve this growing community and offer support through this ongoing transition to Seattle and America.
Why do people from Horn of Africa countries move to the United States?
There are various reasons why individuals and families relocate. Many from Horn of Africa countries have experienced hardships in their home countries forcing them into refugee camps in other East African countries, or to migrate to the U.S.
Ethiopians make up the biggest percentage of the East African population in Seattle. A series of traumatic political and ecological events in the 1970s and 1980s led tens of thousands of Ethiopians and Eritreans to flee Ethiopia and seek residency in the United States and abroad. Following an overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, a communist regime (the Dergue) held power and killed an estimated 500,000 Ethiopians and Eritreans. Alongside the repressive regime, Ethiopia experienced severe drought and famine adding to the chaos the country was experiencing. During this time, many Ethiopian and Eritreans fled for nearby countries and thousands received refugee status from the U.S.
Somalis make up another large portion of the East African immigrant and refugee community in Seattle and have the fastest growing rate of new arrivals. In 1991, a civil war began in Somalia leading to the overthrow of the Barre regime. Clan warfare, territory squabbles, and lack of a central government with supporting infrastructure have continued the unrest and instability of Somalia. Over one million Somalis have fled to neighboring countries and sought asylum in over 60 countries worldwide.
So why do East African immigrants and refugees end up in Seattle?
The first East Africans to arrive in Seattle were mostly students in the 1960s and 1970s. The growing East African population in Seattle was then due to random placement of refugees by the US government. From the earliest arrivals, individuals would then sponsor family members and relatives to migrate to Seattle, creating a large East African community here.
Where in Seattle do most East Africans live?
The City of Seattle published this map in 2010, but the information it provides us with is still very relevant today. Southeast Seattle is the area most heavily populated by East Africans. This is why our office is located in the Columbia City neighborhood, and also why the main site for our afterschool program is located nearby, in Rainier Vista.
This map also shows a hub of Africans living in northern Seattle. This explains why we chose to also provide tutoring services for youth at the Broadview Public Library up north.
Of course, this map accounts for more than just East Africans, but it is a true representation of how the majority of East Africans have dispersed themselves within the city limits of Seattle, Washington.