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Greek Americans (Greek: Ελληνοαμερικανοί, Ellinoamerikani) are Americans of Greek descent. According to the 2007 U.S. Census Bureau estimation, there were 1,680,088 people of Greek ancestry in the United States, while the State Department mentions that around 3,000,000 Americans claim to be of Greek descent. In addition, the 2000 census revealed that Greek was spoken at home by 365,436 people older than five. Greek Americans have a heavy concentration in Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Baltimore, Cleveland, Houston and New York City. Tarpon Springs, Florida is also home to a large Greek American community. The United States is home to the largest overseas Greek community, ahead of Cyprus and the United Kingdom, which despite having a Greek population of less than 1 million has a larger percentage of Greeks than the U.S.
The first Greek known to have arrived on U.S. soil was a man named Don Theodoro, who landed on Florida with the Narváez expedition in 1528. He died during the expedition, as did most of his companions.
In 1592, Greek captain Juan de Fuca (Ioannis Fokas or Apostolos Valerianos) sailed up the Pacific coast under the Spanish flag, in search of the fabled Northwest Passage between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. He reported discovering a body of water, a strait which today bears his name. The Strait of Juan de Fuca forms part of the International Boundary between the United States and Canada.
In 1768, about 500 Greeks from Smyrna, Crete and Mani settled in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The colony was unsuccessful, and the settlers moved to St. Augustine, Florida in 1776, where their traces were lost to history.
The first significant Greek community to develop was in New Orleans, Louisiana during the 1850s. By 1866, the community was numerous and prosperous enough to have a Greek consulate and the first Greek Orthodox Church in the United States. During that period, most Greek immigrants to the New World came from Asia Minor and those Aegean Islands still under Ottoman rule. By 1890, there were almost 15,000 Greeks living in the U.S.
Immigration picked up again in the 1890s, due largely to economic opportunity in the U.S., displacement caused by the hardships of Ottoman rule, the Balkan Wars and World War I. 450,000 Greeks arrived to the States between 1890 and 1917, most working in the cities of the Northeast; others labored on railroad construction and in mines of the Western United States; another 70,000 arrived between 1918 and 1924.
Greek immigration at this time was over 90% male, contrasted with most other European immigration to the U.S., such as Italian and Irish immigration which averaged 50% to 60% male. Many Greek immigrants expected to work and return to their homeland after earning capital and dowries for their families. Two factors changed attitudes and facilitated permanent immigration: 1) Loss of homeland: In 1913 at the conclusion of the Balkan Wars, the hometowns of 60,000 Greeks in America were converted to Bulgarian territory, and, in 1923, the hometowns of approximately 250,000 Greeks in America were converted from Ottoman to Turkish territory and, in both cases, these Greeks were de jure denaturalized from those homelands and lost the right to return and their families were made refugees. 2) The first widely implemented U.S. immigration limits against Europeans were made in 1923, creating an impetus for immigrants to apply for citizenship, bring their families and permanently settle in the U.S. Fewer than 30,000 Greek immigrants arrived in the U.S. between 1925 and 1945, many of whom were "picture brides" for single Greek men.
The events of the early 1920s also provided the stimulus for the first permanent national Greek American religious and civic organizations. Greeks again began to arrive in large numbers after 1945, fleeing the economic devastation caused by World War II and the Greek Civil War. From 1946 until 1982, approximately 211,000 Greeks emigrated to the United States. These later immigrants were less influenced by the powerful assimilation pressures of the 1920s and 1930s and revitalized Greek American identity, especially in areas such as Greek language media.
Greek immigrants founded more than 600 diners in the New York region in the 1950s through the 1970s. Immigration to the United States from Greece peaked between the 1950s and 1970. After the 1981 admission of Greece to the European Union, annual U.S. immigration numbers fell to less than 2,000. In recent years, Greek immigration to the United States has been minimal; in fact, net migration has been towards Greece. Over 72,000 U.S. citizens currently live in Greece (1999); most of them are Greek Americans.
The predominant religion among Greeks and Greek Americans is Eastern Orthodox Christianity. There are also a number of Americans who descend from Greece's smaller Sephardic and Romaniote Jewish communities.
Greek settlements in the US
States by percentage of people of Greek ancestry
(according to the 2000 U.S. Census)
- New Hampshire 1.24%
- Massachusetts 1.23%
- New York 0.84%
- Connecticut 0.81%
- Illinois 0.77%
- New Jersey 0.73%
- Rhode Island 0.62%
- Maryland 0.59%
- Utah 0.52%
- Florida 0.48%
States by number of people of Greek ancestry
(according to the 2000 U.S. Census)
- New York 159,763
- California 125,284
- Illinois 95,064
- Massachusetts 78,172
- Florida 76,908
- New Jersey 61,510
- Pennsylvania 56,911
- Ohio 50,609
- Michigan 44,214
- Texas 32,319
Communities by percentage of people of Greek ancestry
The US communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Greek ancestry are:
- Tarpon Springs, Florida 10.40%
- Campbell, Ohio 9.30%
- Lincolnwood, Illinois 7.60%
- Plandome Manor, New York 7.50%
- Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 7.20%
- Allenwood, New Jersey 6.60%
- South Barrington, Illinois 6.00%
- Palos Hills, Illinois 5.40%
- Nahant, Massachusetts 5.30%
- Holiday, Florida, Munsey Park, New York and Alpine, New Jersey 5.20%
- East Marion, New York 5.00%
- Palos Park, Illinois, Upper Brookville, New York, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan and Grosse Pointe Township, Michigan 4.90%
- Harbor Isle, New York 4.70%
- Lake Dalecarlia, Indiana 4.50%
- Barnum Island, New York 4.40%
- Peabody, Massachusetts 4.30%
- Livingston Manor, New York and University Gardens, New York 4.20%
- Oak Brook, Illinois 4.00%
- Dracut, Massachusetts 3.90%
- Oyster Bay Cove, New York and Harwood Heights, Illinois 3.80%
- Yorkville, Ohio, Hiller, Pennsylvania, Fort Lee, New Jersey, Long Grove, Illinois, Oakhurst, New Jersey and Ipswich, Massachusetts 3.70%
- Garden City South, New York, Plandome, New York, Broomall, Pennsylvania and Norwood Park, Chicago, Illinois (neighborhood) 3.60%
- Manhasset, New York, Palisades Park, New Jersey, Palos Township, IL, Windham, New York, Norridge, Illinois, Monte Sereno, California and Flower Hill, New York 3.50%
- Morton Grove, Illinois, Wellington, Utah and Terryville, New York 3.40%
- Plandome Heights, New York, Watertown, Massachusetts, Banks Township, PA (Carbon County, PA) and Harmony, Pennsylvania (Beaver County, PA) 3.30%
- Niles Township, Illinois and Niles, Illinois 3.20%
- Groveland, Massachusetts 3.10%
- Albertson, New York, Stanhope, New Jersey, Caroline, New York, Graeagle, California, Marple Township, Pennsylvania and Lynnfield, Massachusetts 3.00%
- Manhasset Hills, New York, West Falmouth, Massachusetts, Winfield, Indiana, Foster Township, Pennsylvania and Worth Township, Indiana (Boone County, IN) 2.90%
Communities by percentage of those born in Greece
The U.S. communities with the largest percentage of residents born in Greece are:
- Horse Heaven, WA 3.8%
- Tarpon Springs, FL 3.2%
- Palos Hills, IL 3.1%
- Harbor Isle, NY 3.1%
- Campbell, OH 3.1%
- Lincolnwood, IL 2.7%
- Englewood Cliffs, NJ 2.5%
- Bedford Park, IL 2.3%
- Twin Lakes, FL 2.3%
- Holiday, FL 2.1%
- Great Neck Gardens, NY 2.1%
- Norridge, IL 2.0%
- Palos Park, IL 1.9%
- Barnum Island, NY 1.9%
- Munsey Park, NY 1.8%
- Foxfield, CO 1.7%
- Cedar Glen West, NJ 1.7%
- Raynham Center, MA 1.6%
- Broomall, PA 1.6%
- Flower Hill, NY 1.6%
- Alpine, NJ 1.6%
- Millbourne, PA 1.6%
- Niles, IL 1.6%
- Grosse Pointe Shores, MI 1.6%
- East Marion, NY 1.6%
- West Falmouth, MA 1.6%
- Golden Triangle, NJ 1.5%
- Palisades Park, NJ 1.5%
- Garden City South, NY 1.5%
- Harwood Heights, IL 1.5%
- Watertown, MA 1.5%
- Morton Grove, IL 1.5%
- East Ithaca, NY 1.4%
- Fort Lee, NJ 1.4%
- Saddle Rock, NY 1.4%
- Oakhurst, NJ 1.4%
- Plandome Manor, NY 1.3%
- White Lake, NC 1.3%
- Old Brookville, NY 1.2%
- Plandome Heights, NY 1.2%
- South Barrington, IL 1.2%
- North Lakeville, MA 1.2%
- Terryville, NY 1.2%
- Jefferson, WV 1.2%
- Ridgefield, NJ 1.2%
- East Norwich, NY 1.2%
- Skokie, IL 1.1%
- Arlington Heights, PA 1.1%
- Pomona, NY 1.1%
- Spring House, PA 1.1%
- Hickory Hills, IL 1.1%
- Cliffside Park, NJ 1.1%
- Friendship Village, MD 1.1%
- Kingsville, MD 1.1%
- Arlington, MA 1.1%
- Mount Prospect, IL 1.1%
- Midland Park, NJ 1.0%
- Lake Dalecarlia, IN 1.0%
- Pinedale, WY 1.0%
- Glenview, IL 1.0%
- Dunn Loring, VA 1.0%
- West Kennebunk, ME 1.0%
- Shokan, NY 1.0%
- Beacon Square, FL 1.0%
- Peabody, MA 1.0%
- Dedham, MA 1.0%
- North Key Largo, FL 1.0%
- Hillside, NY 1.0%
- Orland Park, IL 1.0%
- Eddystone, PA 1.0%
- South Hempstead, NY 1.0%
- Redington Beach, FL 1.0%
- Hillsmere Shores, MD 1.0%
- Greek American novelist Jeffrey Eugenides won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for his novel Middlesex, about a Greek American family in Detroit.
- The 1970s television-series Arni  depicted aspects of Greek American life.
- In 1967, Academy Award-winning film-director Elia Kazan published a novel, The Arrangement: A Novel, about a conflicted Greek American living a double life as an advertising executive and muckraking journalist. Kazan, who died in September 2003, was a Greek American.
- The popular 1970s show Kojak, featured Telly Savalas as Greek American police detective Theo Kojak, and his brother George as detective Stavros. Kojak was originally supposed to be Polish (hence the name), but this was changed to match Savalas' profile.
- The 2002 comedy film My Big Fat Greek Wedding portrayed the love story of a Greek American woman (portrayed by Greek Canadian Nia Vardalos) and a non-Greek American man (specifically a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant). It also examines the protagonist's troubled love/hate relationship with her cultural heritage and value system. The movie spawned an unsuccessful TV series, My Big Fat Greek Life.
- The Famous Teddy Z was an acclaimed but short-lived TV series about a fictional talent agent named Teddy Zakalakis, portrayed by Jon Cryer.
- The TV series Full House was about a family that included Greek American Uncle Jesse, portrayed by John Stamos. Jesse's Greek dad was also a recurring character.
- The Olympia Cafe was a recurring sketch in the early years of Saturday Night Live. More recently, Tina Fey has often joked about her Greek heritage on the show.
- Tom's Restaurant, a Greek American owned business, has become one of the symbols of urban New York life.
- Elektra Natchios is a Marvel Comics superhero, portrayed by Jennifer Garner in the 2003 movie Daredevil and the 2005 movie Elektra.
- In the 1973 blockbuster The Exorcist, Jason Miller starred as Greek American Father Damien Karras, one of the priests who exorcised young Regan. In one scene, Karras’ mother, played by Greek actress Vasiliki Maliaros, is listening to a Greek radio station broadcasting the song Ιστορία μου αμαρτία μου (My Story, My sin) by the late popular Greek singer Rita Sakellariou.
- Several entertainers and other performing artists including Demi Moore, Alexander Frey, John Aniston, Jennifer Aniston, Tommy Lee, Paul Cavonis, Criss Angel, Elias Koteas and Billy Zane are of Greek descent.
- Writer, performer and radio-commentator David Sedaris satirizes growing up in a Greek American household in Suburban North Carolina in several of his essays.
Any person who is ethnically Greek born outside of Greece may become a Greek citizen through naturalization, providing he/she can prove a parent or grandparent was born as a national of Greece. The Greek ancestor's birth certificate and marriage certificate are required, along with the applicant's birth certificate, and the birth certificates of all generations in between until the relation between the applicant and the person with Greek citizenship is proven.
Major Greek American organizations
There are hundreds of regional, religious and professional Greek American organizations. Some of the largest and most notable include:
- The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association is the largest community organization of Greek Americans. It was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1922 to counter the anti-Greek attacks by the Ku Klux Klan during that time period. Its current membership exceeds 18,000.
- The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is the religious organization most closely associated with the Greek American community. It was established in 1921, and is under the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The church operates the Greek Orthodox Youth of America, the largest Orthodox Christian youth group in the United States.
- The American Hellenic Institute, an advocacy group for Greek Americans, and its lobbying arm, the American Hellenic Institute Public Affairs Committee.
- The Next Generation Initiative, a foundation that works with prominent Greek American leaders and executives to offer educational opportunities such as internships and master classes through a network of more than 5,500 Greek American students and 2,500 professors on 200+ college campuses.
- The Council of Hellenes Abroad is a Greek government sponsored umbrella organization for Greek immigrant organizations worldwide.
- The PAIDEIA-USA Organization  is an organization promoting the preservation of Hellenic education and culture in the United States.
- The National Hellenic Student Association  is a PAIDEIA-sponsored university-based organization promoting Hellenic culture on university campuses.
- Many topika somatea or clubs representing the local regional homeland of Greeks in America. Among the scores of such clubs, larger "umbrella" organizations include the Pan Macedonian Association, the Panepirotic Federation, the Pan Cretan Association, the Pan-Icarian Brotherhood, the Pan Pontian Federation of U.S.A-Canada, the Chios Societies of America & Canada, the Cyprus Federation of America, the Pan-Laconian Federation of the USA & Canada, the Pan-Messinian Federation of the USA & Canada, the Pan-Arcadian Federation of America and several associations of refugees from areas in the former Ottoman territories.