Although Greeks have accounted for a relatively small percentage of the total immigrants to the United States, they have formed strong ethnic communities that have kept alive their language, traditions, and religion. Persons of Greek ancestry account for 0.4 percent of the current population of the United States.
Significant numbers of Greeks did not begin immigrating to the United States until the 1880’s. However, the first Greek immigrants arrived during the 1820’s, when the Greek war of independence from the Ottoman Empire left Greece with a large foreign debt, and the lack of industrialization forced inhabitants to look elsewhere for employment.
After the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, Greece became part of the
Following the end of its war of independence, Greece faced a number of internal economic challenges. The country was slow to industrialize through the nineteenth century. As late as 1879, more than 80 percent of its people still lived in rural communities. Currants were Greece’s chief export product, and their price declined so much that many Greek farmers went bankrupt and were unable to pay their taxes. This poor economic climate prompted many Greeks to emigrate.
Emigrants boarding small boats that will carry them to Patras, Greece, on their way to the steamship that will take them to America in 1910.
With the encouragement of the Greek government, young men began leaving the country during the late nineteenth century in the hope of gaining employment in the United States. Large-scale Greek immigration to the United States began in 1880, with the largest numbers immigrating during the early twentieth century. Between 1900 and 1920, more than 350,000 Greeks immigrated to the United States. About 95 percent of the immigrants who came between 1899 and 1910 were men. In keeping with Greek tradition, these men often worked to secure dowries for their sisters back home. In 1905 alone, Greek immigrants remitted more than four million dollars to their families in Greece. Most did not intend to stay in the United States.
Upon arriving in the United States, most Greek immigrants found jobs in various industries. In New England, for example, they worked in
Around the turn of the twentieth century, Greek immigrants began going into business for themselves. They opened shoeshine parlors, candy shops, and, most notably, restaurants. Their first restaurants served native cuisine to fellow Greeks. In
A major unifying force for the Greek community in America was the church. The first
Prior to 1965, the United States had established quotas restricting immigration from certain countries and ethnic groups. The quotas favored immigrants from northern and western European countries. The Immigration Act of 1924 had imposed harsh restrictions on non-western European immigrant groups. Under that law, only one hundred Greeks per year were allowed entry into the United States.
In 1965, the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress passed the
During the first decade of the twenty-first century, approximately 1.4 million persons of Greek ancestry were living in the United States. They resided in all fifty states, with the greatest numbers living in large cities such as Chicago, New York City, and Detroit. Many Greek immigrants have assimilated into American culture, but have remained strongly connected to Greek traditions, religion, and ethnicity.
Contopoulos, Michael. The Greek Community of New York City: Early Years to 1910. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Aristide D. Caratzas, 1992. History of one of the largest concentrations of Greek immigrants in any American city. Moskos, Charles. Greek Americans: Struggle and Success. 2d ed. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1989. Scholarly study of Greeks in America through the 1980’s. Orfanos, Spyros D., ed. Reading Greek America: Studies in the Experience of Greeks in the United States. New York: Pella, 2002. Collection of essays examining a variety of issues surrounding Greek immigrants. Saloutos, Theodore. The Greeks in the United States. Rev. ed. New York: Greekworks.com, 2007. Comprehensive study of Greek immigrants. Includes an introduction by Charles Moskos, and historiographical essay by Alexander Kitroeff. Scourby, Alice. The Greek Americans. Boston: Twayne, 1984. Broad study of Greek Americans with background information on Greek history, several chapters on immigrants, and a chapter on changes in Greek American family structures.
History of immigration after 1891
Immigration Act of 1921
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
Yugoslav state immigrants