The Greeks of Chicago: The Survival of an Ethnic Group Through Education by Andrew T. Kopan

by Andrew T. Kopan

Published in the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Volume 16, Issue 1-4, April 1989 

From the article:
The story of the Greeks of Chicago may well stand as an example of the survival of an ethnic group and the perpetuation of a culture through education.  It is a story of an ethnic minority busily going through the process of adjustment in an alien city, grasping every opportunity to build a better way of life following the hoped-for return to the homeland, and tenaciously retaining a profound consciousness of its identity and heritage.  Preservation of the Greek cultural ethos was not achieved without conflict and divisiveness, nor without the modifying and acculturative impact of the American milieu; but in time, thanks to the role of a deliberative bicultural educational program, a new Greek American culture emerged in Chicago.

Historically, it all began in the 1840s with the arrival of a few pioneer Greek traders who came to Chicago by way of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.  Some went back to their homeland with glowing tales of the Midwest and then returned with relatives.  But it was not until after the Great Fire of 1871 that Chicago became the site of a steady stream of Greek immigrants, attracted by the business potential of rebuilding the city.  Crop failures in Greece in the early 1890s accelerated this flow of immigrants so that the Greek community was formally established by 1892 in Chicago, going on to become the largest in the national until it was surpassed after World War II by the Greek community of New York City.

The first area of settlement in Chicago was in the vicinity of Clark and Kinzie streets, just north of the Loop, where the Greeks were close to the area of their employment in the Water Street Market district and where the first Greek shops were established along with the first Greek Orthodox parish in Chicago.  By 1895, a second area of settlement evolved on the Near West Side in the district surrounded by Halsted, Harrison, Blue Island, and Polk streets, just north and west of the famed Hull House and the present location of the University of Illinois Chicago Circle campus.  Replacing the Irish and Italians who had originally settled in the area, the Greek Delta, as it became known emerged as Chicago's famous Greektown - the oldest, largest, and most important settlement of Greeks in the United States.  . . . 

PDF pages 45-55

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