Ethnic Groups

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Entry Category: Ethnic Groups - Starting with I

Immigration

The peopling of Arkansas has taken place since prehistoric times, beginning with the migration of early Native Americans thousands of years ago. Europeans began to settle the area shortly after the arrival of the early explorers, such as Hernando de Soto, Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, and René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. Settlement took place largely as a result of gradual migrations into the state. Each new group helped define the cultural characteristics of Arkansas. White Immigration, 1820 to 1880Immigration into Arkansas between 1820 and 1880 was part of the general westward movement, a larger migratory process taking place in America. Some of the main reasons white people migrated to Arkansas were to seek adventure, to join family and …

Irish

Irish migration to Arkansas took place throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in three distinct settlements. Over the years, Irish residents of Arkansas have made their mark on the state, exemplified in organizations such as the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas. About fifteen percent of Arkansans claim Irish or Scotch-Irish ancestry. The first wave of Irish immigration concerned the Scotch-Irish (sometimes called Scots-Irish), who were descendants of eighteenth-century Ulster Protestant immigrants. The term Scotch-Irish acknowledges the seventeenth-century mass Scottish migration to Ireland’s northernmost province, Ulster—a migration that left indelible marks on the culture, including stark differences in religion and nationalistic attitudes that distinguished the Protestant, pro-British “Scotch-Irish” from their Catholic, Gaelic, and generally anti-British neighbors. Scotch-Irish immigrants to the United …

Italians

Few people associate Arkansas with Italian immigration to America, assuming immigrants settled only in the urban Northeast. Yet many communities throughout the United States have a significant proportion of Italian Americans. Lured by work and regional ties, immigrants gravitated to places they could find work, whether in garment factories, coal mines, farms, fisheries, the canning industry, or lumber mills. They sought out established settlements of their village compatriots, or paesani. Certainly in the peak immigration years (1880–1910), the American South—including Arkansas—attracted its share of Italian immigrants. According to the National Italian American Foundation, the 2000 Census reports that just 1.3 percent (36,674 people) of the state’s population was of Italian-American descent; while the Arkansas numbers are not overwhelming, Italian Americans …