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Teacher's Notes

Background on Arab Americans


Mount Lebanon, or the Lebanon Mountains in present-day Lebanon, are between the Mediterranean Sea and the Beka'a Valley. The steep mountains help protect Lebanon against invaders. In 1516, Ottoman Turks took over what is now Lebanon, but because of the steep mountains around Lebanon and its strong government, the country was able to regain some independence. This independence made others want to come to Lebanon, and the population increased a great deal. During this time, problems began between religious groups. The Ottomans also began sending young men from Lebanon into the Turkish army. Then, in 1876, merchants and artisans first came to the United States for an art show in Philadelphia. Their exciting descriptions of the art show made many people interested in immigrating to the United States.

Like many other immigrants, Arab families used all of their money to send their sons and daughters ahead of them to the United States in order for them to send money back home or pay for their relatives to join them in America. The Lebanese, both men and women, preferred work work by themselves as peddlers-people who travel around selling products-rather than work in factories. Traveling around the country and meeting other people helped the Lebanese immigrants learn English quickly and become familiar with American customs and culture. After peddling for a few years, many were able to become suppliers or buy their own stores.

Adapted from Immigration by Sarah J. Glasscock