Syrian Americans are citizens of the United States of Syrian ancestry or nationality. This ethnic group includes first generation immigrants, and descendants of Syrians who immigrated to the United States. It is believed that Syrians first arrived in the United States in large number in 1880. Many of the earliest Syrian Americans settled in New York, Boston, and Detroit. Immigration from Syria to the United States was stopped for a long time after the United States Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which made it difficult.
|Regions with significant populations|
|New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Louisiana, Ohio, Iowa, Texas|
|American English, Arabic (variants of Syrian Arabic), Kurdish, Armenian, French|
|Christianity (mostly Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic), Islam (mostly Sunni), Judaism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Syrian people, Lebanese Americans, Iraqi Americans, Armenian Americans, Assyrian Americans|
More than forty years later, the Immigration Act of 1965, removed the quotas and immigration from Syria to the United States increased very much. It is estimated that 64,600 Syrians immigrated to the United States between 1961 and 2000.
Most of the Syrian immigrants to the US from 1880 to 1960 were Christian; a small minority were Jewish, Muslim Syrians arrived in the United States mostly after 1965. According to the United States 2000 Census, there were 142,897 Americans of Syrian ancestry, about 12% of the Arab population in the United States.
It is believed that the first Syrian immigrants arrived in the United States from Greater Syria in the 1880s and worked as peddlers, selling linen and other similar types of goods. Before 1920, the area now known as Syria was actually part of Greater Syria, an area which included the four modern countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Syria itself. Most immigrants from the region were classified as "Syrian," even though they were not ethnic Syrian; some were even registered as Syrian Turks as Syria was under Ottoman rule for 400 years. This makes difficulties in trying to work out how many Syrians arrived in the early years.
Most of the early Syrian immigrants came from Christian villages around Mount Lebanon. According to historian Philip Hitti, approximately 90,000 "Syrians" arrived in the United States between 1899 and 1919. An estimated 1,000 official entries per year came from the governorates of Damascus and Aleppo, which are governorates in modern-day Syria, in the period between 1900 and 1916. Early immigrants settled mainly in northeastern United States, in the cities of New York City, Boston and Detroit and the Paterson, New Jersey area.
According to the United States 2000 Census, there are 142,897 Americans of Syrian ancestry living in the United States. New York City has the biggest concentration of Syrian Americans in the United States. Other urban areas, including Boston, Dearborn, New Orleans, Toledo, Cedar Rapids, and Houston have large Syrian populations. Syrian Americans are also numerous in Southern California (i.e. the Los Angeles and San Diego areas) and Arizona.
The first Syrian immigrants to the United States wore traditional clothing, this along with the fact that they tended to work as peddlers, led to some xenophobia. Dr. A. J. McLaughlin, the United States health officer at Marine Hospital, described Syrians as "parasites in their peddling habits." U.S. authorities claimed that Syrians had no right to become naturalized because they were Asian and did not belong to the white race. However, Syrians reacted quickly to assimilate fully into their new culture. Immigrants Anglicized their names, adopted the English language and common Christian denominations.
Syrians did not stay together in urban areas; many of the immigrants who had worked as peddlers were in contact with Americans on a daily basis. This helped them to absorb and learn the language and customs of their new homeland. Also military service during World War I and World War II helped assimilation. Assimilation of early Syrian immigrants was so successful that it has become difficult to recognize the ancestors of many families which have become completely Americanized.
After 1965 Immigration was mostly Muslim, and unlike their Christian counterparts they found it a bit harder assimilating because of their Islamic faith and the anti-assimilationist trend in America of the 1960s and 1970s. Also they are fond of their identity as Arabs, which might be a result of the bloom in multiculturalism to respect their Islamic religious customs and traditions in the United States.
Syrians are mainly Arabic speakers. While some may speak the formal literary Arabic, many Syrians speak Syrian Arabic, a dialect which belongs to the Levantine Arabic family of dialects. There are also sub-dialects in Syrian Arabic; for example, people from Aleppo have a distinct accent, one that differs considerably from that of people from Homs or Al-Hasakah. Syrians can usually understand the dialects of most Arabs, especially those who speak any form of Levantine Arabic.
Many old Syrian American families no longer speak Arabic because many parents do not teach their children Arabic. Newer immigrants, however, maintain their language traditions. The 2000 census shows that 79.9% of Syrian Americans speak English "very well". Throughout the United States, there are schools which offer Arabic language classes; there are also some Eastern Orthodox churches which hold Arabic services. Also to note Syria and Lebanon were briefly under French rule between 1918 and 1943 when they obtained independence, so many Syrian Americans are familiar with the French language.
- U.S. Census Bureau: Population by Selected Ancestry Group and Region: 2005
- "Lebanese and Syrian Americans". Utica College. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- "Immigrants, by Country of Birth: 1961 to 2005". United States Census. Retrieved 2007-04-29.
- A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City, Museum of the City of New York/Syracuse University Press, 2002
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- Samovar & Porter (1994), p. 83
- Pipes, Daniels (1990-10-21). "Greater Syria: Another Lion Roars in the Middle East". Danielpipes.com (The Washington Post). Retrieved 2006-05-21. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- Naff (1993), p. 3
- Hitti, Philip (2005) . The Syrians in America. Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-176-4.
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- Suleiman (1999), pp. 1-21
- Samovar & Porter (1994), p. 84
- "We the People of Arab Ancestry in the United States" (PDF). United States Census. Retrieved 2007-05-20.