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8 Facts You Wouldn’t Have Guessed About Arab Americans

posted on: Oct 5, 2020

8 Things You Wouldn’t Have Guessed About Arab Americans

By: Sarah Elbeshbishi/Arab America Contributing Writer

Arabs and Arab Americans have been stereotyped for years, especially in the media. But what do we really know about them? Here are eight facts about various Arab Americans that will surprise you.

1. Arab Americans Have Been Settling Into the United States Since the 1880s

8 Things You Wouldn’t Have Guessed About Arab Americans

During the Great Migration (1880-1924) a large number of Arabs migrated to the United States. They came from Greater Syria, which is current day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. By 1924, the end of the Great Migration period, there was 200,000 Arabs living in the United States.

There was a second wave of Arab immigration post-World War II, which was significantly more diverse than the first wave. Arabs migrated, not only from Syria and Lebanon but Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan.

2. One-Third of Arab Americans Reside in Only Three States

8 Things You Wouldn’t Have Guessed About Arab Americans

While there are Arab Americans in every state in the United States, there is a major concentration in three states. One-third of Arab Americans live in either California, Michigan or New York.

3. Several Famous People Are of Arab Descent

8 Things You Wouldn’t Have Guessed About Arab Americans

There are several well-known celebrities who have Arab lineage.

Singer and former The Voice judge, Shakira, comes from Arab lineage, with her father being Lebanese.

Also, a famous singer and dancer known for being a judge on American Idol, Paula Abdul, is Syrian on her father’s side.

8 Things You Wouldn’t Have Guessed About Arab Americans
Via USA Today

Several American actors, such as Tony Shalhoub and Rami Malek, are of Arab descent as well. Shalhoub, best known as Adrian Monk from Monk, carries Lebanese ancestry from both his mother’s and father’s sides. His father immigrated to the United States from Lebanon while his mother grew up in the U.S. to Lebanese parents. Known for his role in Mr. Robot and Bohemian Rhapsody, Malek was born to Egyptian parents.

Similar to Malek, Hoda Kotb, co-host for NBC’s Today show, was also born to Egyptian parents.

4. The Majority of Arabs in the United States Are Lebanese


According to the Arab American Institute, Lebanese Americans make up the majority of the total number of Arab Americans living in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Americans Community Survey from 2006 to 2010, estimates that there were 485,019 Lebanese Americans, the largest Arab population. Egyptian Americans are in second with a population of 179,853.

5. 94% of Arab Americans Live in Metropolitan Areas

Detroit, Michigan/Arab American National Museum

During the Arab waves of migration, many immigrants moved to major cities like New York, Detroit, and Boston because of the opportunities for employment. Many of them stayed in those areas as their families grew.

Though one-third of Arab Americans reside in either California, Michigan or New York, 94% of them reside in major cities. The six top areas where Arab Americans reside are in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Northern New Jersey.

6. First Arab American Newspaper Was Published in 1892


Kawkab Amīrkā, or the Star of America, was the first Arab newspaper published in the United States. Located in New York, it was published both in Arabic and English, selling about 30,000 copies per issue in both the United States and the Ottoman Empire. It ran from 1892 to 1909.

The founding of the paper is uncertain, but it aimed to bring easterners and westerners together in closer relationships. The paper had correspondents in various countries, such as Turkey, Egypt, India, Persia, and Syria.

7. In 1957 an Arab American Charity Was Founded to Raise Awareness and Money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, otherwise known as the ALSAC, was founded in 1957 to aid in the hospital’s mission to raise funds and awareness to operate and maintain the hospital itself. According to, ALSAC is responsible for raising 75% of the necessary funds to operate St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

The ALSAC was founded by Lebanese American entertainer, Danny Thomas. Born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob in Deerfield, Michigan, Thomas’ parents were both Lebanese.

Thomas gathered leaders from both the Lebanese and Syrian communities to help him accomplish his goal of providing aid to sick children, which led to the creation of the ALSAC. According to the Arab American National Museum, Thomas’ goal was to ensure “children of all ages, races and creeds should receive treatment, no matter what the monetary cost.”

8. An Arab American Ran for United States President

Ralph Nader in 2018

Ralph Nader, the son of Lebanese immigrants, is an American writer and attorney who ran as a Green Party presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000 – and then as an Independent candidate in 2004 and 2008.

In 2000, in his second campaign running for president, Nader’s platform focused on universal health care, environmental and consumer protections, and strengthened labor rights. Nader aimed to obtain five percent of the national vote in order for the Green Party to secure federal matching funds for future presidential campaigns, but fell short with 2.7 percent of the national vote.

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