The Anti-Greek Riot of 1909 - Omaha

Topics: Nebraska, Omaha, Nebraska, Greeks Pages: 5 (2055 words) Published: April 24, 2013
Cleavages have always been a concern when it comes to politics, communities, and corruption. Ever since it’s beginning Omaha has continued to grow when it comes to banking & its economy as well as the production of meat packing. Overall, Omaha, Nebraska has always been a well balanced and diverse community. However, when a place becomes too diverse it may be start to corruption from within. One of the leading acts of corruption in Omaha began in 1909, and we know it today as the Anti-Greek Riots. This essay will take the reader through the background of the anti-Greek riots; it will also give the reader the information on this event while also tying this malicious event in to the national theme of this time period.

The city of Omaha was settled by immigrants just like all of Nebraska. The difference is than that of the Omaha Community is that it was settled by exceptionally diverse mix of people over the years. This is unusual because of the location of the city in the middle of the United States.  Between the times of 1900 and 1930 Omaha was home of the highest percentage of foreign born residents in the nation (Meed & Hunt). The countries of origin where most of the immigrants came from northern Europe and changed to more of the southern and eastern heritage of Europe. Ever since the late 1800 it was known that Germans were the leading immigrants in the United States. Omaha has always been known to be a diverse community, but it was as if each type of immigrant had their own sector or portion of Omaha. Germans took up the area of 13th street, and 'Little Poland” was more developed between 25th and 29th street and F and L streets (Meed & Hunt). Being one of the earliest and most organized groups of people the Bohemians became developed from south Omaha to being more east of where they had started. Immigrants came from everywhere and claimed their little areas of Omaha and South Omaha. One may think that all of the different types of people in one place can corrupt a person but for the most part Omaha proves this theory incorrect.  Everyone seemed to assimilate greatly and get along with other; however the Greeks interrupted the peace within Omaha.   Arriving in south Omaha around 1904 Greeks were brought in as strike breakers in the local meat-packing that Omaha once adored. By 1907 well over 2000 Greeks were reportedly living in the city (Meed & Hunt). With this massive Greek population it didn’t take long for them to build a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Most of the other races and their communities around Omaha began to think of the Greeks were unemployed and lazy. Think about it, the Greeks came into Omaha, while everyone else was already there, breaking up strikes. Some may have had the thought of, 'Who are they to tell me what to do?' or 'We were here first.' It was as if the Greeks played a role higher than the citizens of Omaha who had been there long before the Greeks. Considering the fact that all of Omaha pretty much hated the Greeks, they could not find an effective reason to get them out.

 “On February 19, 1909 a Greek worker named John Masouides shot and killed a respected police officer” for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a 17 year old. “For many residents of South Omaha this was the Last Straw: the Greeks had to go (Matthew Namee).” It was then that a mass meeting of angry citizens was held on February 21, 1909 at the city hall to take such steps to adopt such measure to rid the city of the Greeks. In 1909 Omaha was a racial bomb waiting to be detonated in which it almost seemed as if John Masourides was handpicked by fate itself to engulf South Omaha in both violence and terror, starting the riot which we now know as the anti Greek riots.

So who is the John Masourides?  John was a typical Greek immigrant that spoke no English and could barely read and write Greek (Bitze). Having left his family he and his brother Gust made for their destination of sunrise, Wyoming...
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