The Mandingo Tribe, also known as the Mandinka, is one of the largest tribes south of the Sahara. There are more than 11 million Mandingo people in West Africa. Most of them are concentrated in Senegal and Mali. Others, however, are disbursed into Gambia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. This migration has produced increasingly diverse dialects. The tribe dates to the Mali Empire built by their ancestors in the 1200’s. Soon after they migrated into West Africa, most of the tribe converted to Islam. West Africa also put them into proximity with the major ports used by the European slave traders. Around the 1500’s, the Mandingos became agents of this trade, often providing slaves from their own people to the Europeans. This resulted in almost 40 percent of their population going to America to work on plantations. Most of the African Americans currently in the United States are descendants of the Mandingos. Mandingo villages were usually autonomous family groups ruled by a presiding chief. Village elders were consulted on matters vital to the clan. Due to their involvement as merchants, most settlements were near major inland trade routes for the transport of their products. Other settlements were built near major ports for shipping.