Bantu languages are spoken by about 310 million Africans, yet the genetic history of Bantu-speaking populations remains largely unexplored. We generated genomic data for 1318 individuals from 35 populations in western central Africa, where Bantu languages originated. We found that early Bantu speakers first moved southward, through the equatorial rainforest, before spreading toward eastern and southern Africa. We also found that genetic adaptation of Bantu speakers was facilitated by admixture with local populations, particularly for the HLA and LCT loci. Finally, we identified a major contribution of western central African Bantu speakers to the ancestry of African Americans, whose genomes present no strong signals of natural selection. Together, these results highlight the contribution of Bantu-speaking peoples to the complex genetic history of Africans and African Americans.
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