The National Black Occupational Therapy Caucus is a network and community comprised of a dynamic group of practitioners, educators, researchers, and students of African Descent who work to promote the success of our colleagues within the profession and advocate for equitable services for consumers in our communities of interest. 

The objectives of NBOTC are:

  • Increase communication among African-American therapists, assistants, and students
  • Increase student recruitment, retention, and certification
  • Promote equal opportunity in employment and education
  • Encourage professional association participation and leadership

Tara Alexander, OTR/L, CPC—President,

Hazel Breland, PhD, OTR/L—Vice President,

Nadine Kwebetchou, MS, OTR/L—Professional Action Chair,


The African-American and/or Black American ethnic group in the United States is a diverse population that is composed of descendants from many areas in the world, including Africa, the West Indies, and South and Central America. The African American culture reflects a very rich history, filled with struggles, innovations, pride, leadership, and traditions. Most of the descendants from the continent of Africa arrived to the U.S. through the Middle Passage during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade between the 16th and19th centuries (PBS, n.d.).

The Middle Passage was a three-part trading system that began and ended in Europe. A ship leaving Europe carrying supplies (e.g., gunpowder and weapons) sailed to Africa for trade. Africans were captured and enslaved in exchange for these goods and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to North American destinations. The African slaves were bought and sold in the Americas for different goods and products (e.g., sugar, tobacco) that were loaded onto the ship and transported back to Europe. It is estimated that as many as 12 million men, women, and children endured the trip across the seas in the Middle Passage (PBS, n.d.). Much of the early slave history was not written because slaves were not permitted to learn to read and write. African American history was passed down through oral storytelling and songs until the stories could be written down for preservation.  

Key Facts About African Americans


  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that in 2013 the population of people who classify themselves as African American (including self-reported persons of more than one race) to be 45 million. This is represents 15.2% of the total U.S. population (CDC, n.d.).  
  • The 2010 Census Brief “The Black Population: 2010” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011), defines Black or African American as a person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of African American; Sub-Saharan African such as from Kenya and Nigeria; and Afro-Caribbean, such as from Haiti and Jamaica.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts that by 2060, the Black population will be 74.5 million (or 17.9% of the total U.S. population) (CDC, 2015).
  • In 2013, the largest percentages of African (Black) American residents per total population live in the District of Columbia (51%), and Mississippi (38%). The largest number of African (Black) American residents live in New York (3.7 million) (CDC, n.d.).
  • 2.2 million African (Black) American veterans served this country in the U.S. armed forces in 2013 (CDC, 2015).
  • The African (Black) American male population in 2013 was recorded as 21.5 million. This was 48% of the total African (Black) American population, with a median age of 31 years (, n.d.a). The African (Black) American female population in 2013 was recorded as 23.5 million (, n.d.a). This was 52% of the total African (Black) American population, with a median age of 35 years (, n.d.a). The largest number by population of African (Black) Americans live in states in the south, southeast, and mid-Atlantic regions (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011).  
For additional information, charts, and tables detailing the geographical distribution of African (Black) Americans by population in the United States, view The Black Population: 2010.

Education and Employment 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2011, 2013), 48% of African American men age 25 and older attended college. However, half of them did not complete a degree (compared with 58% of all men who attended college). African American women have been more successful than their male counterparts in terms of education: 57% of African American women age 25 and older attended college, and 22% completed college with a bachelor’s degree (compared with 30% of all women who attended college).  

The median income for African American women in 2013 was $33,780, and 36% of African American working women held full-time jobs. The breakdown of these types of jobs is:

  • White collar (management, legal, education, business, and computers): 64%.
  • Blue collar (construction, maintenance and repair, installation, and transportation): 8%
  • Service occupations (health care support, food preparation, and serving): 28% (, n.d.b)
The median income for African American men in 2013 was $37,290, and 37% of African American men held full-time jobs. The breakdown of these types of jobs is:
  • White collar (management, legal, education, business, and computers): 42%. 
  • Blue collar (construction, maintenance and repair, installation, and transportation): 36%
  • Service occupations (health care support, food preparation, and serving): 23% (, n.d.c)
The U.S. Justice Department, Bureau of Justice Statistics (2014), issued a data report from their National Prisoner Statistics program noting that in 2013 African American males had the highest percentage of imprisonment rates of all males (37%). In addition to those males who also are classified as ex-offenders between the ages of 18 and 64, this negatively affects the labor force and employment numbers for African American males as well as the increased number of single female parent households. 

Health Disparities

The leading causes of death for African Americans are heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and unintentional injuries (e.g., motor vehicle injuries) (CDC, 2015). Smoking and tobacco use, asthma, teen pregnancy, obesity, high cholesterol, and HIV are also areas identified by the CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report (CDC, 2013) as conditions that affect life expectancy, death rates, and other conditions and behaviors affecting African Americans today.


African Americans hold strong views and values when it comes to religion. The Pew Research Center (2009) summarized the results of a 2008 study showing that African Americans are “markedly more religions on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole, including level of affiliation with a religion, attendance at religions services, frequency of prayer and religion’s importance in life.” 

The Pew Center’s summary also noted that: 

  • On the basis of attending religious services at least once a week, praying on a daily basis, and the belief that God exits, African Americans are “considered the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation.”
  • 83% of African Americans consider themselves to be Christians, with 1% identifying themselves as Muslims. The breakdown of the top five religions affiliations identified by African Americans by percentage are:
    • 45% Baptist
    • 12% Non religious
    • 8% Pentecostal
    • 7% Other Protestant
    • 5% Methodist


The following websites provide research, documentaries, government data, and cross cultural guidance on diversity issues as they relate to African Americans 

1. Program for Research on Black Americans 

PRBA seeks to collect, analyze, and interpret empirical data on African Americans as well as international data on people of African descent. Additionally, PRBA provides research and training opportunities to scholars, graduate students, and graduate assistants of African descent. 

2. Stanford Ethnogeriatric Curriculum Module

The health conditions in the African American or Black elder population in the U.S. are discussed in this module. An emphasis is placed on historical and traditional influences on this population’s health and health care. This module is divided into the following segments: 
  • Assessment
  • Prevention and treatment
  • Access and utilization
  • Culturally appropriate geriatric care

3. African American Community Health Fact Sheet Written by NAMI

This mental health sheet summarizes pertinent factors of mental illness in the African American community such as diagnosis, treatment, and cultural sensitivity.  

4. Race: The Power of an Illusion 

A newsreel series and accompanying website on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) navigates viewers through the topic of race and its effect on social, economic, and political paradigms. 

5. Not in Our Town: Tools to Fight Hate 
A documentary series and campaign by the Working Group educating and informing organizations through grassroots and educational outreach on how to prevent and respond to hate crimes.

6. PBS Frontline Documentary: A Class Divided                                                                                                
Examines how a third grade class learns a daring lesson in discrimination that has had an impact for more than 30 years.

7. Culture at Work                                                                                                                                                                       
A website designed to help one negotiate difficult issues in the work setting, especially in cross-cultural situations.

8. Office of Minority Health                                                                                                                                              
A website created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services designed to improve and protect the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will eliminate health disparities. 

9. CDC—Black or African American Populations
Minority health report developed and compiled from the 2010 U.S. Census by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describing African American demographics, leading causes of death, health statistics and disparities, resources, and funding. 

References (n.d.a). 2013 census black population estimates. (n.d.b). African American women. (n.d.c). Black men. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). CDC health disparities & inequalities report. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Black or African American populations. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ( 2015). Newsroom. Black (African-American) History Month: February 2015. 
PBS. (n.d.). Africans in America: Part 1, The terrible transformation. 
Pew Research Center. (2009). A religious portrait of African Americans.  
U.S. Census Bureau. (2011). 2010 Census briefs: The black population.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2013). American community survey. 
U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2014, September). Prisoners in 2013.