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A collage of famous Arab Americans, including, from left to right, Kahlil Gibran, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Donna Shalala, Farouk El-Baz, Danny Thomas, Christa McAuliffe, Steve Jobs and Katya Bachrouche.

A collage of famous Arab Americans, including, from left to right, Kahlil Gibran, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Donna Shalala, Farouk El-Baz, Danny Thomas, Christa McAuliffe, Steve Jobs and Katya Bachrouche.

May 28, 2024

Celebrating Arab American Heritage: Honoring Contributions and Inspiring Future Generations

Celebrate Arab American Heritage Month with inspiring resources that honor the contributions of notable Arab Americans and enrich lesson planning.


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The Importance of National Arab American Heritage

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran, the iconic Arab American poet, captures the essence of life's interconnectedness and the journey of every individual in his timeless words. His poetic wisdom not only speaks to the hearts of millions but also reminds us of the diverse threads that weave the fabric of American history and society. Just as Gibran's words transcend boundaries, so too does the heritage of Arab Americans, enriching our nation's culture, history and identity. Understanding Arab American history helps us appreciate the myriad contributions that have shaped the America we know today.

Celebrating Arab American Resilience: Heritage Heroes

Gibran's poetry and art, with its profound depth and universal themes, serve as a gateway to exploring the stories of Arab Americans. These journeys are marked by resilience, creativity, and a steadfast pursuit of equity and recognition. From the early immigrants who faced significant challenges to the modern-day pioneers breaking new ground, Arab Americans have continuously contributed to the growing portrait of life in the U.S.

Arab American history is filled with stories of individuals who have excelled in various fields despite facing obstacles. Their contributions span literature, science, sports, politics and the arts, demonstrating a commitment to both their cultural roots and their American identity. As we explore their stories, we see a narrative of perseverance and achievement that mirrors the broader American experience.

So how many Arab American heroes do you or your students know about? Let's highlight a few notable figures who have left an indelible mark on our society.

A black-and-white photo of Kahlil Gibran, renowned Arab American poet and author, celebrating his contributions for Arab American Heritage Month.

Khalil Gibran

Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese American poet, artist and writer, is best known for his book The Prophet, which has been translated into over 100 languages and remains a beloved work of spiritual and philosophical literature. His writings explore universal themes of love, joy and sorrow, transcending cultural boundaries to touch the hearts of readers worldwide. Gibran's profound insights and poetic brilliance have solidified his legacy as one of the most influential literary figures of the 20th century.

A photo of Ibtihaj Muhammad, Olympic fencer and Arab American, celebrating her achievements for Arab American Heritage Month.

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj Muhammad made history as the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the U.S. in the Olympics, earning a bronze medal in fencing at the 2016 Rio Games. She is also an outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion, using her platform to challenge stereotypes and promote greater understanding of Muslim Americans. Beyond her athletic achievements, Muhammad is a successful entrepreneur and author, inspiring many with her story of perseverance and courage.

A photo of Donna Shalala, prominent Arab American politician and educator

Donna Shalala

Donna Shalala served as the U.S. secretary of health and human services from 1993 to 2001, becoming the longest-serving individual in that role and significantly advancing public health initiatives. Under her leadership, the department expanded healthcare access, improved health outcomes and implemented important reforms, including the Children's Health Insurance Program. Shalala's distinguished career also includes serving as the president of major universities and as a U.S. representative, where she continued to advocate for health, education and human rights.

A photo of Farouk El-Baz, distinguished Arab American scientist and geologist,

Farouk El-Baz

Farouk El-Baz, an Egyptian American geologist, played a crucial role in the Apollo space missions, helping to select landing sites on the moon and training astronauts in lunar observations. His contributions to space exploration have earned him numerous accolades, including NASA's Apollo Achievement Award. El-Baz's work extends beyond space science; he has also made significant contributions to desert research and water resource management, benefiting communities worldwide.

A black-and-white photo of Danny Thomas, celebrated Arab American entertainer and philanthropist.

Danny Thomas

Danny Thomas, a beloved entertainer and philanthropist of Lebanese descent, founded St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in 1962, revolutionizing the treatment and research of catastrophic pediatric diseases. His vision ensured that no child would be denied treatment based on race, religion or their family's ability to pay. Thomas' legacy continues through the hospital's groundbreaking work, providing hope and healing to countless children and families.

 A photo of Christa McAuliffe, Arab American astronaut and educator,

Christa McAuliffe

Christa McAuliffe, a dedicated teacher and astronaut of Lebanese descent, was selected as the first civilian to fly in space as part of the Space Shuttle Challenger mission. Her commitment to education and her pioneering spirit made her a national symbol of the importance of teachers and the pursuit of knowledge. Although her life was tragically cut short in the Challenger disaster, McAuliffe's legacy lives on through scholarships and educational programs that inspire future generations of educators and students.

A photo of Steve Jobs, influential Arab American entrepreneur and co-founder of Apple Inc.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. and of Syrian descent, revolutionized the technology industry with groundbreaking products like the iPhone, iPad and MacBook, transforming the way people interact with technology. His visionary leadership and innovative spirit drove Apple to become one of the most valuable companies in the world, setting new standards for design, functionality and user experience. Jobs' impact extends beyond technology; his work in digital media and entertainment, including the success of Pixar Animation Studios, has left an indelible mark on the industry.

A photo of Katya Bachrouche, Arab American Olympic swimmer,

Katya Bachrouche

Katya Bachrouche, a Lebanese American swimmer, represented Lebanon at the 2012 London Olympics, making a significant impact on the international stage. Her dedication to swimming and her athletic achievements have made her a role model for aspiring athletes in Lebanon and beyond. Bachrouche continues to advocate for sports and physical education, promoting the importance of health and fitness in young people's lives.

Raising Awareness About Arab American Heritage

To truly appreciate the depth of Arab American heritage, it’s essential to educate our students and others about their history and culture. Arab American students, like all students, deserve to see themselves reflected in the curriculum and recognized for their contributions to society. This representation fosters a sense of pride, belonging and validation, encouraging Arab American students to engage more fully with their education and feel valued in their school communities. For non-Arab students, learning about Arab American history and culture broadens their understanding of the world, promotes empathy and breaks down stereotypes. As educators, parents and guardians, we have the power to shape the perspectives of young minds and foster a more inclusive and understanding society. By including Arab American heritage in our lessons, we create a richer, more diverse educational experience that benefits all students, helping them to appreciate the beauty of our diverse society and the strength that comes from recognizing and celebrating our differences.

Learn More

Explore more about Arab American history and culture. Incorporate stories about Arab Americans into your lessons, and celebrate their heritage in your communities. For comprehensive data and insights, consider the Arab American Institute as a valuable resource. Visit our collection of resources on Share My Lesson for ideas to bring Arab American history to life in your classroom.

Arab American Heritage Month

Join the Share My Lesson community as we recognize the contributions made by Arab Americans and celebrate their culture and heritage. In this tailored collection, you’ll find resources, activities and lesson plans from partners such as, ADLRe-imagining Migration, and StoryCorps.

Andy Kratochvil
Andy Kratochvil is an SML team member who loves hiking, video games, scary books, Mexican food, and finding great content for the Share My Lesson community. He studied political science and French at California State University, Fullerton and received his Master’s in International Affairs from... See More

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