I am writing a story that is set in the 1920s. Several of the characters in the story are either immigrants from southern or eastern Europe (e.g., Greece, Italy) or their children, and I'm trying to figure out the kinds of negative prejudices the characters might face because of their background. Due to the plot the characters also interact with the scientific community of the 1920s and the story also deals with the fact during the early 20th century many of the prominent scientists and intellectuals of the time such as Henry Fairfield Osborn were also eugenicists and had very unfavorably views to...pretty much anyone who wasn't an "Anglo-Saxon" in the interactions between characters.

However, when I have tried to research what the actual stereotypes Greek immigrants to the United States have had to face, I have come up with little. I have found that anti-Hellenistic sentiment was very much present during these times, as it was for most of the 'new immigrant' groups (e.g., Italians, Poles, Irish, Chinese, etc), but none of the sources really describe what form those prejudices took beyond "they didn't like Greek immigrants because they were foreigners". While not technically inaccurate, in these situations often more precise stereotypes emerge that influence people's behaviors, and oftentimes different groups suffer from being assigned different types of stereotypes.

I am aware what present day stereotypes there are regarding Greek-Americans, but have no idea if those stereotypes were present as well back then. Many of the modern Greek stereotypes seem to have arisen around the events of the 2008 Greek debt crisis. I am well aware of the specific prejudices that Italians faced when they immigrated to the New World, namely being regarded as "too dark-skinned", too Catholic, and being stereotyped as violent and criminal (a stereotype that got worse as organized crime began to gain power with Prohibition), but I have no idea if these stereotypes were more broadly believed with respect to other groups from southern and eastern Europe.

Given this, I am trying to find out what kind of negative prejudices and stereotypes did Greek immigrants or Greek-Americans face in the United States?

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    Have you seen this? Greek Town riot The Omaha Daily News wrote, "Their quarters have been unsanitary; they have insulted women... Herded together in lodging houses and living cheaply, Greeks are a menace to the American laboring man – just as the Japs, Italians, and other similar laborers are." These stereotypes may be quite localized, though. Oct 2, 2021 at 10:11
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    This is a British rather than American answer, and I can't cite the exact source, but I recall years ago reading one of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, in which Bond recalls hearing a proverb: 'Trust a snake before a Jew and a Jew before a Greek, but don't trust an Armenian!' I can't remember which of Fleming's novels it was, and suspect it has been censored in more recent editions.
    – Timothy
    Oct 6, 2021 at 9:38

2 Answers 2


Guarding the Gates

There is a book about it called Guarding the Gates.

Henry Pratt Fairchild & The Press

According to sociologist Henry Pratt Fairchild in Page 82 of Guarding the Gates the Greeks and Italians were disproportionately "criminal types" unable to assimilate in to society.

According to Page 82 the press were equally scathing, labelling them as "a vicious element unfit for citizenship, and as ignorant, depraved and brutal foreigners".


I would say that when looking and studying the history of American immigration, Greek-Americans have experienced little stereotyping when compared with other ethnic and racial groups over the past 100 plus years. One would have to go back to the early 1900's, when Greek immigration to the United States was fairly high and Greek communities were being established throughout the continental United States-(with its heaviest concentrations in New York City, Boston, Chicago and Pinellas County, Florida).

However, there were also Greek communities established in some of the more conservative parts of the United States, such as Salt Lake City, Utah, Omaha, Nebraska and Atlanta, Georgia....and in each of these cities, there were anti-Greek riots or in the case of Atlanta, Georgia, the fiery destruction of the Greek Community's Orthodox Church, which led to the founding of the American Hellenic Educational Public Association-(nicknamed, AHEPA).

One long lasting stereotype of Greek-Americans is that it is assumed that all diners-(especially, in the Northeastern United States), are "run by Greeks"...this is a stereotype that is often voiced and heard by Greek-Americans for time immemorial. Outside of the diner owner stereotype, as well as the very few above mentioned riots which occurred 100 plus year ago, during the height of Greek-(and Southern European) migration to America, the Greek-American community has been largely-(though not totally) spared from very negative and vicious stereotyping.

There tends to be, amongst many ordinary and everyday Americans-(though this does not include the educated and well-traveled elites), an ignorance, indeed a mysterious ignorance, of the Greek Orthodox Christian faith. There are usually strange and rather odd sounding questions that are asked which tend to lack a basic historical understanding and familiarity with the evolution and centuries old presence of the Greek Orthodox Church-(and in particular, the 100 year plus presence of the Greek Orthodox Church in America). Yet, such ignorance, (while frustrating and irksome), tends to be harmless in nature and is often more in the form of innocent sounding questions and inquiries, rather than harmful or harassing stereotypes.

Overall, the Greek experience in the United States, has been rather successful and part of its success, is attributable to its lack of both personal stereotyping and institutional discrimination.

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