Objective The main objective of this paper is to review the literature on the term 'Black African' with respect to a number of themes: its use in the census and official data collections; the acceptability of a colour-based term; the heterogeneity concealed within the 'Black African' collectivity; the invisibility of distinct populations; the concealment of disparities in health, health care, and determinants; the capture of 'Black Africans' in other countries; and a set of possible alternatives for classifying this population. Design Structured searches were undertaken on a wide range of government and other grey literature sources and on two biomedical databases (Medline and EMBASE), using combinations of search terms for the collectivity and specific national origin groups. Results Analyses of the data show that the term 'Black African' conceals substantial heterogeneity with respect to national origins, religion, and language. It includes many who have come to the UK since the 1960s from former colonies but also sizeable groups arriving as refugees and asylum seekers from a wide range of African countries. Moreover, its boundaries are fuzzy, especially with regard to those originating in Horn of Africa countries. Marked variations are found in the (albeit limited) available disaggregated data on health and the determinants of inequalities. Conclusions Given the substantial increase in the size of the group, the extent to which such heterogeneity can continue to be tolerated in a single term must be questioned. The 'Black African' collectivity merits categorisation that addresses this issue and the proposed regional subdivisions in the Scotland 2006 Census Test currently offer the best solution.