No Greeks Need Apply

Source: Liam Hogan Twitter/@Limerick1914.

By Andrew S. Gounardes and Maria Avgitidis Pyrgiotakis*.

“Wanted – A first class shoemaker to do repair work. Must be steady and sober and able to operate Champion stitcher; good wages to the right man and steady employment the year round. No Greeks need apply. Address A. Kyser, Kearney, Neb.”

No, this ad isn’t a joke. It was published in the Omaha Daily Bee on February 9, 1916, and it is a sobering reminder of the way Greek immigrants were treated in this country when they first arrived in the United States, and more importantly, why Greek- Americans of all political beliefs should be opposed to immigration legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK) and David Perdue (R-GA) and supported by President Trump.

Under this proposal, immigration levels into the United States would be cut in half within ten years, with a higher priority given to those with advanced skills, education, or knowledge of English. The legislation would also limit the number of immigrants entering the country as refugees. Most significantly, it would sharply limit the number of immigrants who enter the United States for family or economic reasons.

Plain and simple: if this system were in place 100, 50, or even 25 years ago, the Greek community in America would not exist. For the past 100-plus years, Greeks have immigrated to the United States in search of peace, stability, and a better life for themselves and their families. They came to escape the persecutions of the Ottoman Empire.

They came to be spared the devastations of World War I. They came to be saved from the terrors of the Asia Minor Holocaust and the burning of Smyrna. They came to be spared the horrors of World War II. They came to find peace during the Greek Civil War. They came to seek safety and opportunity during the unrest of the 1960s and 1970s.

They came to find economic prosperity during the stagnation of the 1980s. For 100-plus years, Greeks have sought out the light of freedom offered by Lady Liberty and came to the United States in the hopes of a better life.

They came here by the thousands and the tens of thousands. They came here legally and yes, they came here illegally. When the United States adopted immigration quotas in 1924, and would only accept 100 immigrants from Greece each year, they still smuggled themselves in by the hundreds and the thousands. How many of our grandparents arrival stories begin with someone having “jumped ship”?

And don’t forget just how unwanted we were in this country. Greek immigrants endured decades of harassment, intimidation, discrimination, and violence – all because they looked different than other Americans, spoke a different language than other Americans, and took low-paying jobs away from other Americans.

The Ku Klux Klan viewed Greek immigrants as a threat to the United States. They attacked Greek businesses, burned crosses on Greek lawns, encouraged doctors to sterilize Greek women, and beat – and in some cases even murdered – Greek immigrants. But it wasn’t just the KKK.

All across the country Greek immigrants and Greek-American citizens were discriminated against and harassed. It was not uncommon to see “No Greeks Wanted” signs in store windows or even the flogging of Greek men for having dared date a “white” woman. Greek immigrants were encouraged to prove themselves of being equal to “whites” by taking “dirty jobs” such as building railroads, cleaning sewage, laying pavement, and working in the factory.

Yet still they came, enduring injustice after injustice, all in the hopes of living a better life here. They didn’t come just for themselves, but for their children and their children’s children. They didn’t come here because they were highly educated, worked great jobs, or spoke good English.

They came here with nothing but dreams for their future. Despite all of these obstacles, Greek immigrants became among the most successful communities in American history. Within years they built businesses, conquered industries, attained high positions, and realized thousands upon thousands of American dreams.

They did all of these things while both assimilating into the culture of their adopted country and keeping true to the values of their home. Most importantly, they raised generations of proud Greek- Americans.

The immigrants of today are no different than the immigrants of yesterday. They come to the United States to find the same peace, stability, and better life that inspired our own immigrant stories. That is why it is imperative that we, as a Greek- American community, stand opposed to any effort to restrict immigration to those who already have an education, have a good job, or speak English well.

Those are not the values of our community that allowed us to become so successful within a generation’s time. Instead, we must remember the struggles of those who came before us and open our doors and open our hearts to all those whose stories mirror our own and we say: Come. You are welcome here. You can make America even greater.

*Andrew S. Gounardes is a member of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.
*Maria Avgitidis Pyrgiotakis is a member of Hellenic Professional Women.


18 Comments

  1. “They did all of these things while both assimilating into the culture of their adopted country and keeping true to the values of their home. Most importantly, they raised generations of proud Greek- Americans.”

    Very true quote. Except many immigrants of today do not assimilate. They do not embrace their new community. They impose their views and laws upon us. They do not raise generations of “fill in the blank-Americans”, rather they raise their children as their native nationality first. American isn’t even an option. They teach their children to hate America and hate the system.

    Immigrants did not come here for the free health care, welfare, medical care, paid utilities, education and everything else that immigrants of today get. They did not work for cash only while also collecting these benefits. They came here with pride and a sense of obligation to do their part to better America. Not take away and weaken it.

    Immigrants had to learn the language, OUR language, to understand. They were not be offered every government issued pamphlet in their native tongue.

    I do not understand what is so wrong with wanting to accept the best of the best to come here. Many countries do it. Why wouldn’t we want people who are self sufficient rather than a burden. We can’t take care of our own properly.

    Times are different now. Every great civilization in history has risen and then fallen. We cannot let the same happen to America by having indifference and thinking that it is a level playing field. It is hard work to be at the top. Someone always will want to knock you down. You have the option of allowing it or not.

    1. USA is a nation of immigrants. It was founded by immigrants and was always welcome to immigrants that wanted to escape religious and ethnic prosecution. It has always been open to those that had a dream for a better life and were willing to work for it. It was also punishing to those who came here for a free ride, the freeloaders and the opportunists.

      Nobody argues that immigrants can, and should, learn the language, but you cannot have it as a requirement for admittance. The vast majority of the greeks that migrated to the USA could hardly speak any English, but still made a name for themselves. Imagine if America was having these laws 50 or 100 years ago and only educated people would be admitted… who would work at the railroads, factories and all the other low paying jobs? These jobs were, and still are the backbone of America economy. You need all levels of education and financial statuses to maintain the status of America as the leader of the world.
      Civilizations failed due to bad leadership, greed, and lack of unity not immigrants.

      And I tell you as an immigrant here, I got no free health care, no free welfare, no free medical care, no free utilities, or free education. I worked hard to get all I have, and I feel proud about it.

      I am happy that I am greek because I just happen to be born greek. I am proud to be part of America because I earned it. That’s the what makes America great.

      1. It was not founded by ‘immigrants’ – it was founded by ‘settlers’. There is a difference. We were not a nation when the pioneers arrived. It was another hundred years before those ‘settlers’ were able to come together to form America.

        The first settlers were, as you know, escaping the old world and its religious discrimination.

        Once we were colonized by England, we were subjects to the crown.

        The royalists or Tories wanted to remain a colony while the early settlers wanted to proceed under the new banner of America.

        You have to have a country to ‘immigrant’ to – that wasn’t the case when America was first discovered, settled, then colonized.

    2. USA is a nation of immigrants. It was founded by immigrants and was always welcome to immigrants that wanted to escape religious and ethnic prosecution. It has always been open to those that had a dream for a better life and were willing to work for it. It was also punishing to those who came here for a free ride, the freeloaders and the opportunists.

      Nobody argues that immigrants can, and should, learn the language, but you cannot have it as a requirement for admittance. The vast majority of the greeks that migrated to the USA could hardly speak any English, but still made a name for themselves. Imagine if America had these laws 50 or 100 years ago and only educated people would be admitted… who would work at the railroads, factories and all the other low paying jobs? These jobs were, and still are the backbone of America economy. You need all levels of education and financial statuses to maintain the status of America as the leader of the world.
      Civilizations failed due to bad leadership, greed, and lack of unity not immigrants.

      And I tell you as an immigrant here, I got no free health care, no free welfare, no free medical care, no free utilities, or free education. I worked hard to get all I have, and I feel proud about it.

      I am happy that I am greek because I just happen to be born greek. I am proud to be part of America because I earned it. That’s what makes America great.

    3. Niko, I have had the privilege to welcome many immigrants to this country who came as refugees. Our Greek Orthodox Church, with the help of our diocesan Philoptochos office helped 20 families come from Yugoslavia. Not all of the people who came were Orthodox. Some were Catholic and some were Muslims. They did not speak English when they came, and they have all learned English. They have assimilated just fine. Their children have been valedictorians in their high school classes. They are attending college. They are fine people, and I love them. Just because our people had it tough (no pamphlets in their language, no social services) doesn’t mean that we have to be cruel to the newcomers. You would think that because our people had it hard, we would want to be kinder and nicer to the others. We would not want them to suffer like we did. This advert from Nebraska made me sick because my pappou, Kiriakos Nikolaou was a shoemaker, and he was able to have a business in Chicago. From him, and my other grandparents came teachers, priests, air traffic controllers, business owners, and a professor. Let’s offer the same opportunities to other people. Presvytera Irene Supica

    4. Niko T. – somewhere in your roots is an immigrant who came here, possibly illegally, like so many others before them. This was the person that afforded you the opportunity to be successful. Let’s look at this a bit differently. Education in America is inferior to most of the world. So here we are accepting only the most educated from around the world. What kind of work is left for the Americans born here? Remember, you are accepting the cream of the crop so they get the best jobs which opens doors to them that will be off limits to Americans with their inferior educations unless, of course, they can afford a private education. Let’s go back to jobs. What kind of jobs do you think will be left for the Americans? All the minimum wage jobs of which we will have to work a minimum of four at part-time. That’s what it will take to survive. Mostly because at part-time, health insurance insurance is not offered nor are other benefits. Americans don’t want to work menial jobs such as working in fields picking crops. And if trump gets his way the coal mines will reopen at full force but this time it won’t be the immigrants working them. We will then have come full circle. Maybe that’s what we Americans deserve because we treat the world like we are the superior beings.

    5. Also come from a proud immigrant Greek family. We must be very careful that the “persecutees” do not become the “persecutors”,which is what you are advocating.

    6. Niko, you perpetuate the myth of the right wing KKK and other fascists who claim patriotism but in fact they are against everything that America stands. They claim that the immigrants are coming here for free health care and welfare. When I came here I did not speak English and I did not go on welfare and I worked and retired now. The new immigrants are not different than us, I live in Tuscon and I see how hard the Hispanic immigrants are working. Read history and see how every group of immigrants was treated when they came in this country, very bad. After a generation and when they got assimilated, the same people who were discriminated against, they started to discriminate against the newcomers. It is time to be humans and not to fall in to the same trap. Anyway, the only true Americans are the Indians who had genocide committed against them.

  2. A quarter of Doric Greeks were always blond and blue eyed. America’s founders loved Greeks, especially William Cullen Bryant’s Greek Boy. It wasn’t until the pseudo-Greek Arab-blooded anti-Semites from the Islands and Asia Minor gave us a bad name that Americans turned against us.

    1. You are a Nazi inhuman being, you are not Greek. Greeks founded reason, philosophy science and logic, human thought that you are lacking.

    2. FYI there is a recent study at the journal Nature that complete dismantles what you just said. Complete. It hows that ancient greeks have at least three-quarters of their ancestry from the first Neolithic farmers of western Anatolia and the rest is caucasian and from Iran. Further the study shows that the modern greeks including Asia Minor are a continuation of the ancient greeks with some dilution. What you said, is idiotic, made up, false, fabricated, fake, unsupported, undocumented, racist and just plain wrong.

      Also the founding fathers admired the Ancient Greek culture. The greeks that came here from the greek mainland were not ancient greeks. They were just like the Asia Minor part of the ottoman empire. You just blurbed something just so you can comment.

      1. This guy Mitros has a pure blood Nazi ideology, the blood does not matter, the culture and reason matters. There are non Greek people who are more Greek than some so called Greeks.

  3. Niko you are mistaken. In your first statement you say that they do not assimilate. First generations only ever slightly assimilate but their children do. My grandparents assimilated just a bit but my parents did completely. That was almost a hundred years ago and the same is true today. The difference is you were not there when your people came, you just see the result today of total assimilation. No immigrant from anywhere ever gives up their own culture completely and honestly why should they? It is what has made this country diverse and strong.
    I have lived in many places in the world and I can tell you from my own direct observations that Americans living abroad are generally the last to assimilate or learn the language of the country they are in far more consistently than that of their immigrant counterpart in the U.S.
    So please know your history and the actual facts before you make statements about people that you have no real knowledge of.
    Everything that is said now was said of us as Greek immigrants with the same fervor and yet it is no more true today than it was then.

  4. Every immigrant group coming to America in the early part of the last century faced the same ‘discrimination’. Boston was famous for barring the Irish and ads just like this were published then only with, “No Irish Need Apply.”

    The Irish were also bought and sold into slavery and were brought to this country. It’s a dark secret that is just beginning to surface as we hear more about the idea of making reparations for black slaves.

    But your statement, “The immigrants of today are no different than the immigrants of yesterday”…is factually wrong.

    Because a portion of this country is in denial of the facts and because our media (such as it is) will not report on the facts, or distorts what they do report with regard to immigration in the year 2017 – does not make it true.

    The evidence clearly points to the fact that America cannot handle the influx of immigrants coming to our shores today…As a poster pointed out up thread, immigrants are not coming here to assimilate – they are coming here to take…They are demanding that they receive all kinds of benefits. They are piggybacking on the social justice movements – that were legitimate for blacks in America – and attempting to hijack for themselves – as if the United States of America has injured every single nation on Earth, therefore they are owed entry into this country. (If we were so injurious to so many, why come here at all?)

    We also face threats that were not even known in 1919, i.e. Islamic terror. The ‘immigrants’ coming here are also mixed up with the ‘refugee’ population. Why would any sane person welcome terrorists into their country and look the other way when they begin to enact their agenda? You do know about Sharia-creep. No other immigrant population has EVER attempted infiltrating Western culture – with the aim of eating the host – as we are seeing in Western Europe and America. We only lag behind Europe in this by a few short years.

    I stand with President Trump’s policy on immigration and refugees for these reasons and much more.

  5. America is great, there are lots of advantages and too many disadvantages.
    They look to bring in the best of the best. but unfortunately America is governed by an invisible hand and some great brilliant men come to America for a better place and work with all their heart to help humanity there is a full stop in the presence of those people, they are too good to put forth their inventions and help humanity, they just disappear, they get several excuses, jumped in the lake, in the ocean. etc.
    John Gabrilides was born in Palestine, studied at American University of Beirut came to USA was preparing his Phd gave lots of hope that he will discover the cure for cancer. 50 years ago, his family was informed that John jumped in to the lake and disappeared, his body was never found. So many others end up like this story.
    This is America the great.

  6. “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”
    Samuel Johnson
    As such, it would behoove the reader to review the following:
    “Greek Americans Struggle and Success” by Charles C. Moskos, Jr.

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