African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group of Americans (citizens or residents of the United States) with total or partial ancestry from any of the Black racial groups of Africa. The term may also be used to include only those individuals who are descended from enslaved Africans. As a compound adjective the term is usually hyphenated as African-American.
The racial categories represent a social-political construct for the race or races that respondents consider themselves to be and "generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country." OMB defines the concept of race as outlined for the U.S. Census as not "scientific or anthropological" and takes into account "social and cultural characteristics as well as ancestry", using "appropriate scientific methodologies" that are not "primarily biological or genetic in reference." The race categories include both racial and national-origin groups.
Race and ethnicity are considered separate and distinct identities, with Hispanic or Latino origin asked as a separate question. Thus, in addition to their race or races, all respondents are categorized by membership in one of two ethnic categories, which are "Hispanic or Latino" and "Not Hispanic or Latino". However, the practice of separating "race" and "ethnicity" as different categories has been criticized both by the American Anthropological Association and members of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.