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National Arab American Heritage Month—A Brief History

National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM) is celebrated in April to recognize the rich history, culture, and achievements of Arab Americans.


Launched as an initiative in 2017 by the non-profit organization Arab America Foundation, the month-long celebration aims to help promote Arab heritage, educate Americans, and connect Arab American communities. In 2019, U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) helped introduce a resolution to U.S. Congress to declare April as National Arab American Heritage Month. This bill is still pending. In 2021 and 2022, NAAH month was recognized by U.S. President Joe Biden. As of 2023, it is observed by 45 U.S. states.


Graphic by: A. Leal de la Torre

MIGRATION OF ARABS TO THE U.S. (1880-1924)

In the late 1800s, the first wave of Arab immigrants from the Ottoman Empire migrated to the United States in hopes of escaping political conflict and finding work. Over the next 44-year period, it is estimated that 110,000 Arab immigrants – an identity given to people sharing origins from 22 different countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – migrated to the U.S., settling primarily in various parts of the Northeast and Midwest.

Today, about 3.7 million Americans have Arab roots, according to the Arab American Institute, though data is difficult to obtain as the U.S. census does not offer respondents a MENA category. Two-thirds of the Arab American population live in states including California, Michigan, New York, Illinois, Florida, and Virginia.

Members from the Arab American community have made significant strides in various industries including medicine, engineering, aerospace, construction, education, foreign policy, and politics.

To learn more about the historical blend of Arab American culture, consider these resources:


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