There are 9 main ethnic groups in Gambia living side by side with a minimum of inter-tribal friction, each preserving its own language, music,cultural traditions and even cast systems though there is an increasing amount of cultural interaction and fusion.The tribes are Mandinka,Wolof,Fula,Jola,Serehulae,Serreher,Akus, Lebanese and Mauritanians.While there is growth in multi-ethnic expressions, the search by groups to reaffirm their identities remains. As a whole they represent a snap-shot of Senegambia society.
However, classifying people by blood or ethnic traits is increasingly difficult as there has been extensive migrations and inter-marriages over the centuries. There were migrations of people into the Gambia before the 19th century but such movement of people greatly increased after the establishment of Bathurst (Banjul) in 1816. They came from Casamance, Futa Toro, Sierra Leone, Mali, Guinea Bissau and other West African countries.
The single largest ethnic group in Gambia is the Mandinka, an agricultural people with a hereditary nobility. Before they migrated to the Gambia valley they lived in the northern slopes of Futa Jallon Plateau. The country of the Manding is in the Niger Valley. The Wolofs are very prominent in the capital city of Banjul and are prominent in the Senegambia region. Their language is the lingua franca for Gambia . The Fulanis or Pol Futa a they are sometimes known are mainly engaged in herding of cattle and running their small corner shops. They are generally of lighter skin than most of the population . Jola people are predominantly organized around the cultivation of rice and are mainly based in the Foni district of the Western Division. The Serahule people are involved mainly in farming, trade and property development. They can be found in their largest numbers in the Basse region and speak in a number of dialects .The Akus are Christians who are descendants of freed slaves who first came to The Gambia in 1787 from Sierra Leone and who rank among the bureaucratic elite as well as being prominent in the private professional classes.