African American (or African-American) is a term used to describe American citizens of African descent. People of Sub-Saharan African origin were brought to the United States involuntarily as slaves from 1619 through 1806. After the abolition of slavery at the end of the Civil War, African Americans continued to be denied fully equal civil rights in many jurisdictions, both legally and by extra-legal cultural practices, including the efforts of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Legal barriers to equality were removed as a result of the work of the civil rights movement during the years between the end of World War II and the end of the 1960s.
The term African American has been adopted in the United States since the 1970s as the preferred term for black Americans, as requested by some black Americans themselves. Advocacy for its use has sometimes been criticized as due to political correctness; those who prefer it say it is a matter of respect and politeness.
The term is subject to accidental or intentional misuse in that it defines a group both in terms of race and in terms of citizenship. This can make clear discussion of topics related to race difficult. When speaking specifically of black United States citizens, the term is correct, but when speaking of all black people, "African American" is inappropriate for obvious reasons.