From the late 19th century until the present day, the Metro-Detroit area has been home to one of the most thriving ethnic enclaves in the country. Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit, is often touted as the heart of Arab America, and it is here in the city that Ford built where thousands of families from the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jebail have settled over the decades.
The influx of immigration began in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, and took on increased vigor when Henry Ford established factories and started hiring workers from Syria (which included Lebanon at that time). The first families from Bint Jebail came early and, as was the practice among most American immigrant groups, encouraged family members from “back home” to join them in this new, thriving industrial town.
Once the doors of American immigration reopened in the mid-1960s, the lull in immigration turned into a wave, and when turmoil broke out in Lebanon in the 1970s, civil strife and foreign invasion motivated thousands upon thousands from southern Lebanon to move to Dearborn, where a sizable group of Arab Americans had been living for decades. So many of these immigrants called Bint Jebail home, so when they came to Dearborn, they kept their family and community ties strong.
After finding success in the Dearborn area—first in factories, then in fields like medicine, law, and education—a group of community members from Bint Jebail decided to come together to form an organization that brought them together under the auspices of their common heritage. The idea behind the Bint Jebail Cultural Center (BJCC) was to provide a link between the ancestral home this community honors and the new home in which they thrive. This began in 1994 with a beautiful facility for cultural and religious celebrations and has progressed to scholarship opportunities for our increasingly successful youth.
As we grow, we progress: From passengers on the titanic to prominent community leaders, the people of Bint Jebail have a long and rich history here in the United States, and they have planted deep roots that continue to flourish.