Roma in the United States
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Roma in the United States
Romani people in the United States
Roma Americans
Romani Americans
Flag of the Romani people.svg Flag of the United States.svg
Total population
est. 1,000,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Texas, West Virginia, New Jersey, New York City, Dallas, Boston, Houston, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Florida, Las Vegas and the Northeast[2]
American English, Romani language
Related ethnic groups
South Asian Americans

It is estimated that there are one million Romani people in the United States. Though the Romani population in the United States has assimilated into American society, the largest concentrations are in Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Texas and the Northeast as well as in cities such as Chicago and St. Louis.[1][4]

The largest wave of Romani immigrants came as a result of the abolition of Romani slavery in the occupied Balkan region of the weakening Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. A wave of rebellious insurrections against the Ottomans resulted in the abolishing of slavery in the territory that would later be known as Romania. Romani immigration to the United States has continued at a steady rate ever since, with an increase of Romani immigration following the 1989 collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe.[1]

The size of the Romani American population and the absence of a historical and cultural presence, such as the Romani have in Europe, make Americans largely unaware of the existence of the Romani as a people.[1] The term's lack of significance within the United States prevents many Romani from using the term around non-Romani: identifying themselves by nationality rather than heritage.[5] The U.S. Census does not distinguish Romani as a group since it is neither a nationality nor a religion.[1]

Romani Americans are the least integrated group in the United States, along with Native Americans.[6] Romani Texan professions are stove and boiler repair or fortune-telling, but other Romani professions include musicians, teachers, university professors, and a documentary filmmaker.[7]



The Romani people originate from Northern India,[8][9][10][11][12][13] presumably from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan[12][13] and Punjab.[12]

The linguistic evidence has indisputably shown that roots of Romani language lie in India: the language has grammatical characteristics of Indian languages and shares with them a big part of the basic lexicon, for example, body parts or daily routines.[14]

More exactly, Romani shares the basic lexicon with Hindi and Punjabi. It shares many phonetic features with Marwari, while its grammar is closest to Bengali.[15]

Genetic findings in 2012 suggest the Romani originated in northwestern India and migrated as a group.[9][10][16] According to a genetic study in 2012, the ancestors of present scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of northern India, traditionally referred to collectively as the ?oma, are the likely ancestral populations of modern European Roma.[17]

In February 2016, during the International Roma Conference, the Indian Minister of External Affairs stated that the people of the Roma community were children of India. The conference ended with a recommendation to the Government of India to recognize the Roma community spread across 30 countries as a part of the Indian diaspora.[18]

Migration to the US

An encampment of the Roma people on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. The photographed group faced eviction from the Portland Police (1905).

Romani slaves were first shipped to the Americas with Columbus in 1492. Spain sent Romani slaves to their Louisiana colony between 1762 and 1800[19]. The Romanichal, the first Romani group to arrive in North America in large numbers, moved to America from Britain around 1850. Eastern European Romani, the ancestors of most of the Romani population in the United States today, began immigrating to the United States on a large scale over the latter half of the 19th century coinciding with the weakening grip of the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman Wars in Europe in the 19th century, which ultimately culminated in the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), freeing many ethnic Eastern Europeans from Ottoman dominance and producing new waves of Romani immigrants.

That wave of Romani immigration comprised Romani-speaking peoples like the Kalderash, Machvaya, Lovari and Churari, as well as ethnically Romani groups that had integrated more within the Central and Eastern European societies, such as the Boyash (Ludari) of Romania and the Bashalde of Slovakia.[20] Romani immigration, like all Central and Eastern European migration, was severely limited during the Soviet era in Central and Eastern Europe but picked up again in the 1990s after the fall of the Eastern Bloc.

The British, the Dutch and the Scottish sent Romani slaves to Virginia and the Caribbean such as Jamaica and Barbados during the Atlantic slave trade.[21]Germany banished them to Pennsylvania. Sweden sent them to the Delaware region.[22] An Afro-Gypsy population survives in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana due to miscegenation with African slaves.[23]

In 1999, the United States received Romani refugees from Kosovo.[24]


  • Ludar: Hailing from North of the Balkans, Hungary, and the Banat, the Ludari, also known as Rudari, Boyash, or Banyash, are a subculture of Romani who arrived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[25]
  • Hungarian-Slovak Romani: The Romani of Northern Hungary largely settled in industrial cities of the Northern United States near the turn of the century. Among Romani from these areas were Olah, Romungre, and Bashalde immigrants. They were noted for their musical traditions and popularized Romani music in the United States by performing in cafes, night clubs and restaurants. Their prevalence in show business made Hungarian-Slovak Romani the most visible of the Romani groups arriving in America at the turn of the century and helped to shape the modern American idea of a Romani.[25]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Webley, Kayla (October 13, 2010). "Hounded in Europe, Roma in the U.S. Keep a Low Profile". Time Magazine.
  2. ^ Kittler, Pamela Goyan; Sucher, Kathryn P.; Nelms, Marcia (January 1, 2016). "Food and Culture". Cengage Learning – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Project, Joshua. "Romani, Romanichal in United States".
  4. ^ Berry, Lynn (February 19, 1995). "Business - Gypsies Trying To Change Stereotyped Image -- Some Practice Their Ancient Culture Secretly". Seattle Times.
  5. ^ Kates, Glenn; Gergely, Valer (April 7, 2011). "For Roma, Life in US Has Challenges: People commonly known as 'Gypsies' face stereotyping, discrimination". Voice of America.
  6. ^ Sevcenko, Melanie. "Roma: The hidden Americans".
  7. ^ HANCOCK, IAN F. (June 15, 2010). "ROMA [GYPSIES]".
  8. ^ Hancock 2002, p. xx: 'While a nine-century removal from India has diluted Indian biological connection to the extent that for some Romanian groups, it may be hardly representative today, Sarren (1976:72) concluded that we still remain together, genetically, Asian rather than European'
  9. ^ a b Mendizabal, Isabel; et al. (6 December 2012). "Reconstructing the Population History of European Romani from Genome-wide Data". Current Biology. 22 (24): 2342-9. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.10.039. PMID 23219723.
  10. ^ a b Sindya N. Bhanoo (11 December 2012). "Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India". New York Times.
  11. ^ Current Biology.
  12. ^ a b c K. Meira Goldberg; Ninotchka Devorah Bennahum; Michelle Heffner Hayes (2015-09-28). Flamenco on the Global Stage: Historical, Critical and Theoretical Perspectives. p. 50. ISBN 9780786494705. Retrieved .
  13. ^ a b Simon Broughton; Mark Ellingham; Richard Trillo (1999). World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. p. 147. ISBN 9781858286358. Retrieved .
  14. ^ ?ebková, Hana; ?lnayová, Edita (1998), Nástin mluvnice slovenské rom?tiny (pro pedagogické ú?ely) (PDF), Ústí nad Labem: Pedagogická fakulta Univerzity J. E. Purkyn? v Ústí nad Labem, p. 4, ISBN 978-80-7044-205-0, archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04
  15. ^ Hübschmannová, Milena (1995). "Roma?i ?hib - rom?tina: N?kolik základních informací o romském jazyku". Bulletin Muzea Romské Kultury. Brno: Muzeum romské kultury (4/1995). Zatímco romská lexika je blií hind?tin?, marvár?tin?, pand?áb?tin? atd., v gramatické sfé?e nacházíme mnoho shod s východoindickým jazykem, s bengál?tinou.
  16. ^ "5 Intriguing Facts About the Roma". Live Science.
  17. ^ Rai, N; Chaubey, G; Tamang, R; Pathak, AK; Singh, VK (2012), "The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations", PLoS ONE, 7 (11): e48477, Bibcode:2012PLoSO...748477R, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048477, PMC 3509117, PMID 23209554
  18. ^ "Can Romas be part of Indian diaspora?". 29 February 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  19. ^ The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery, Volume 1; Volume 7 By Junius P. Rodriguez
  20. ^ "Gypsies in the United States". Migrations in History. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved .
  21. ^ Rodriguez, Junius P. (February 1, 1997). "The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery". ABC-CLIO – via Google Books.
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ [2]
  24. ^ Powell, John (February 1, 2009). "Encyclopedia of North American Immigration". Infobase Publishing – via Google Books.
  25. ^ a b "Gypsy and Traveler Culture in America". Gypsy Lore Society.

Further reading

  • Gropper, Rena C., and Carol Miller. "Exploring New Worlds in American Romani Studies: Social and Cultural Attitudes among the American Macvaia." Romani Studies 11, no. 2 (2001): 81-110.
  • Heimlich, Evan. "Romani Americans." in Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 4, Gale, 2014), pp. 1-13. Online
  • Marafioti, Oksana. American Gypsy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012).
  • Sinclair, Albert Thomas (1917). George Fraser Black (ed.). American Gypsies. New York Public Library. Retrieved 2014.
  • Sinclair, Albert Thomas (1915). George Fraser Black (ed.). An American-Romani Vocabulary (reprint ed.). New York public library. Retrieved 2014.
  • Sutherland, Anne. "The American Rom: A Case of Economic Adaptation." in Gypsies, Tinkers and Other Travellers, edited by Farnham Rehfisch, (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975). pp 1-40.
  • Sutherland, Anne. Gypsies: The Hidden Americans (Tavistock Publications, 1975).
  • Sway, Marlene. Familiar Strangers: Gypsy Life in America (University of Illinois Press, 1988).

External links

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