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Black residents constituted around 3 per cent of the United Kingdom's population in 2011.The figures have increased from just under 1.15 million residents in 2001, or 2 per cent of the population, to just over 1.9 million in 2011.The term has been used from the 1950s, mainly to refer to Black people from former British colonies in the West Indies (i.e., the New Commonwealth) and Africa, who are residents of the United Kingdom and who consider themselves British.The term "black" has historically had a number of applications as a racial and political label, and may be used in a wider sociopolitical context to encompass a broader range of non-European ethnic minority populations in Britain. "Black British" is one of various self-designation entries used in official UK ethnicity classifications.They are generally the descendants of black people who lived in England in the 18th century and freed Black American slaves who fought for the Crown in the American Revolutionary War (see also Black Loyalists).In 1787, hundreds of London's black poor (a category that included the East Indian seamen known as lascars) agreed to go to this West African colony on the condition that they would retain the status of British subjects, live in freedom under the protection of the British Crown, and be defended by the Royal Navy.Analysis of a skull found in a Roman grave in Yorkshire indicated that it belonged to a mixed-race female.

In the 1970s, a time of rising activism against racial discrimination, the main communities so described were from the British West Indies and the Indian subcontinent.

The 1991 UK census was the first to include a question on ethnicity.