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Czech or Czechoslovak
|Regions with significant populations|
|Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York Metropolitan Area|
|American English, Czech|
|Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Czechs, Moravians, Silesians, Silesian Americans, Slovaks, Slovak Americans, Sorbs, Sorbian Americans, Poles, Polish Americans,|
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Czech Americans (Czech: Čechoameričané), known in the 19th and early 20th century as Bohemian Americans, are citizens of the United States who are of Czech descent. Czechs originate from the Czech lands, a term which refers to the majority of the traditional lands of the Bohemian Crown, namely Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia. These lands over time have been governed by a variety of states, including the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Austrian Empire, the Czechoslovak Republic, and the Czech Republic. Germans from the Czech lands who emigrated to the United States usually identified as German American, or, more specifically, as Americans of German Bohemian descent. According to the 2000 US census, there are 1,262,527 Americans of full or partial Czech descent, in addition to 441,403 persons who list their ancestry as Czechoslovak.
The first documented case of the entry of Czechs to the North American shores is of Joachim Gans of Prague, who came to Roanoke, North Carolina in 1585 with an expedition of explorers organized by Sir Walter Raleigh (1552–1618).
Augustine Herman (1621–1686) was the first documented Czech settler. He was a surveyor and skilled draftsman, successful planter and developer of new lands, a shrewd and enterprising merchant, a bold politician and effective diplomat, fluent in several languages. After coming to New Amsterdam (present New York) he became one of the most influential people in the Dutch Province which led to his appointment to the Council of Nine to advise the New Amsterdam Governor Peter Stuyvesant. One of his greatest achievements was his celebrated map of Maryland and Virginia commissioned by Lord Baltimore on which he began working in earnest after removing to the English Province of Maryland. Lord Baltimore was so pleased with the map that he rewarded Herman with a large estate, named by Herman "Bohemia Manor", and the hereditary title Lord.
There was another Bohemian living in New Amsterdam at that time, Frederick Philipse (1626–1720), who became equally famous. He was a successful merchant who, eventually, became the wealthiest person in the entire Dutch Province. Philipse was originally from Bohemia, from an aristocratic Protestant family who had to leave their native land to save their lives, after the Thirty Years' War.
The first significant wave of Czech colonists was of the Moravian Brethren who began arriving on the American shores in the first half of the 18th century. Moravian Brethren were the followers of the teachings of the Czech religious reformer and martyr Jan Hus (1370–1415), Petr Chelčický and Bishop John Amos Comenius (1592–1670). They were true heirs of the ancient "Unitas fratrum" - Unity of the Brethren bohemicorum, who found a temporary refuge in Herrnhut ("Ochranov," in Czech language) in Lusatia under the patronage of Count Nikolaus Zinzendorf (1700–1760). Because of the worsening political and religious situation in Saxony, the Moravian Brethren, as they began calling themselves, decided to emigrate to North America.
They started coming in 1735, when they first settled in Savannah, Georgia, and then in Pennsylvania, from which they spread to other states after the American Revolution, especially Ohio. They established a number of Moravian settlements, such as Bethlehem and Lititz in Pennsylvania and Salem in North Carolina. Moravians made great contributions to the growth and development of the US. Cultural contributions of Moravian Brethren from the Czech lands were distinctly notable in the realm of music. The trumpets and horns used by the Moravians in Georgia are the first evidence of Moravian instrumental music in America.
In 1776, at the time of the Declaration of Independence, more than two thousand Moravian Brethren lived in the colonies. President Thomas Jefferson designated special lands to the missionaries to civilize the Indians and promote Christianity. The free uncultivated land in America encouraged immigration throughout the nineteenth century; most of the immigrants were farmers and settled in the Midwestern states. The first major immigration of Czechs occurred in 1848 when the Czech "Forty Eighters" fled to the United States to escape the political persecution by the Austrian Habsburgs. During the American Civil War, Czechs served in both the Confederate and Union army, but as with most immigrant groups, the majority fought for the Union. Immigration resumed and reached a peak in 1907, when 13,554 Czechs entered the eastern ports. Unlike previous immigration, new immigrants were predominantly Catholic. Although some of the anticlericalism among Czechs in Europe did come to the United States, on the whole Czech Americans are much more likely to be practicing Catholics than Czechs in Europe. By 1910, the Czech population was 349,000, and by 1940 it was 1,764,000. The U.S. Bureau of the Census reported that nearly 800,000 Czechs were residing in the U.S. in 1970. Since this figure did not include Czechs who had been living in the U.S. for several generations, it is reasonable to assume that the actual number was higher.
The top 50 U.S. communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Czech ancestry are:
The top U.S. communities with the most residents born in the Czech Republic (former Czechoslovakia) are:
However, these figures are grossly understated when second and third generation descendants are included.
Many cities in the United States hold festivals celebrating Czech culture and cuisine.
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