Skip to Main Content
Begley Library Homepage banner

April is Arab American Heritage Month


About Arab-American Heritage

Arab-American Heritage Month:

During the month of April, the achievements of Arab Americans are recognized through the celebration of National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM). Across the country, cultural institutions, school districts, municipalities, state legislatures, public servants, and non-profit organizations issue proclamations and engage in special events that celebrate our community’s rich heritage and numerous contributions to society.

In April 2021, after years of Arab Americans recognizing the month as such themselves (the Arab America Foundation launched the National Arab American Heritage Month initiative in 2017, with just a handful of states recognizing the initiative), President Biden declared April National Arab American Heritage Month to recognize the 3.5 million Arab Americans that exemplify “so much of what our country stands for: hard work, resilience, compassion, and generosity.” 


References: Arab America FoundationState Department: Arab American Heritage Month

Arab vs. Middle Eastern

Who is an Arab?
"Arab" is a cultural and linguistic term, and does not have one distinct meaning. It generally refers to those who speak Arabic, and are united by culture and history.  Arabs are not a race. Some have blue eyes and red hair; others are dark skinned; many are somewhere in between. Most Arabs of the world are Muslims but there are also millions of Christian Arabs and thousands of Jewish Arabs, just as there are Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Americans.  In fact, in 2002, most Arab Americans in the US were associated with Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Other).**


What is the Arab World?
The Arab World consists of 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. You may question why places like Iran or Afghanistan is not listed as an Arab country: their primary languages are Farsi and Pashto/Dari, respectively.  Arab countries, however, have a rich diversity of ethnic, linguistic, and religious communities. These include Kurds, Armenians, Berbers and others. There are over 300 million Arabs.

What is the Middle East?
The Middle East is a loose term, not always used to describe the same territory. It usually used in a way which includes the Arab countries from Egypt east to the Persian Gulf, plus non-Arab places like Israel and Iran, Turkey and Armenia (also described or associated as Indo-European), and Afghanistan.  Some references also include Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh (mainly described or attributed as South Asian).

Who are Arab Americans?
Arab Americans are Americans of Arab descent. There are Americans with roots in each Arab country, but most originate from Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. There are also substantial communities from Egypt, Yemen and Iraq. The first immigrants arrived in the late 19th century. A second wave of immigration started after World War II, and still continues. The largest communities of Arab Americans live in the Detroit-Dearborn area. 

You may recognize some rather famous Arab Americans:

DJ Khaled, Palestinian, hip-hop DJ, rapper, music producer

Rami Malek, Egyptian, Emmy Award and Academy Award - winning actor for Bohemian Rhapsody

Paula Abdul, half-Syrian Jewish (considers herself Jewish and not ethnically Arab), singer, musician, writer, actress, and television personality

Tiffany, born Tiffany Renee Darwish, half-Lebanese, singer

Sofia Boutella, Algerian, actress, model, and Hip-hop dancer

George Nader, Lebanese, American film and television actor.

Salma Hayek, Mexico-born Lebanese, Mexican actress

Kathy Najimy, Lebanese, actress

Vince Vaughn, part-Lebanese, actor

Steve Jobs, half Syrian, head and co-founder of Apple

Kristy McNichol, Lebanese, two-time Emmy Award-winning actress

F. Murray Abraham, Syrian-American, Academy Award-winning actor (Amadeus)

Tige Andrews, Syrian, Emmy-nominated actor

Paul Anka, Lebanese, singer/songwriter

Frank Zappa, part-Lebanese, musician

Christa McAuliffe — Teacher & space shuttle astronaut

Helen Thomas — Former Dean of White House Press Corps

Ralph Nader — Consumer advocate

Click here for more:


What are some fun facts about Arab Americans?
The Arab America Foundation has a list of "Arab American Fun Facts" (click here).


**Arab American Religions 2002 Zogby International Institute Survey

Arab American Infographics

This LibGuide is under development; please send any suggestions or feedback to Reference Librarian: Mrs. Farah Douglas: