Coming to America
Gallery 1: Second Floor
Arab Americans are among the many ethnic groups that make up the United States. They trace their roots to the Arab world, which stretches from North Africa to West Asia. Arab Americans are just as diverse as the Arab world itself. They come from rural and urban areas in 22 different countries, practice different religions, work in a variety of fields, and have a range of educational backgrounds and political affiliations. Despite this diversity, Arab Americans have a shared sense of history, language, and cultural heritage.
Whereas the majority of the people who come from an Arab country identify themselves as Arab Americans, some might identify by their country of origin such as Syrian Americans or Palestinian Americans. Some might identify themselves by their ethnic backgrounds such as Chaldean Americans.
Arabs have been coming to the United States for hundreds of years. Like others, they came seeking better opportunities. The first significant number of immigrants came between 1880 and 1920. This slowed down drastically because of restrictive immigration laws passed after World War I. Since the 1970s, the number of Arab Americans has increased rapidly due to a change in these laws, and because of wars and economic hardships in some Arab countries. It is estimated that by 2000 there were about 4.2 million Arab Americans.
Beaded Shoes. When Sara Abdalla left Syria with these shoes in 1923 en route to the United States, her journey would lead her to cross the Atlantic three times before reaching her final destination. Gift of Marie and Ollie Abdalla.
The artifact is a reproduction of the bell worn around the neck of each camel of the Camel Military Corps. Courtesy of the Texas Camel Corps (www.texascamelcorps.com)