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Most were illiterate and spoke little or no English.
Many planned to stay in the United States only until they had saved enough money to return home with more money and greater status.
The first generation of immigrants from the Middle East began arriving in the late 19th century.
They were mostly Christians from the Greater Syria province of the Ottoman Empire, which comprised modern day Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan.
When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, most Arab immigrants began to identify with the region in the Ottoman Empire from which they came, usually Syria or Lebanon.The community continued to advance economically, with peddlers establishing stores or small manufacturing plants, while importers imported items from the Middle East, ranging from rugs to olives.During the First World War, immigration from the Middle East dropped, but a second wave of migration began in the 1920s, as relatives of those already living in the United States began to immigrate and, seeing the success of those living in the United States through their remittances back home, new immigrants decided to join them.By the 1920’s, there were an estimated 250,000 Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians in the United States.Most were engaged in commercial activities, but some worked in the industrial plants of an emergent Detroit, as well as other cities.The Ottoman Empire was the dominant power in the Middle East during the late 19th Century, and nearly all of the immigrants from the Middle East came with passports and identification papers issued by the Ottoman Empire.The terms “Turk” and “Syrian” were used interchangeably, including on Port of Entry records.In the aftermath of that event, Arab Americans were subjected to hate crimes, racial profiling and discrimination.In responding to these circumstances, in the 2000s, Arab Americans became a leading voice in the civil rights community of the United States.Many moved to major cities, like New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Boston, and became peddlers.Among other things, they peddled religious items, embroidery, baked goods and confectioneries, which were often made by their wives.