“Demetrios Is Now Jimmy”
Greek Immigrants In
the Southern United States
Lazar “Larry” Odzak
Reviewed by: Andrew A. Christakos, Historian
“Demetrios Is Now Jimmy" is a well written, informative, and stimulating book, that will appeal to all readers interested in Greek American chronicles. This work fits nicely into the gap between Theodore Saloutos’ wide ranging “The Greeks in the United States” and Charles Moskos' “Greek Americans: Struggle and Success” on one hand and a few local histories that describe immigrant circumstances in particular cities, in the South. Odzak’s work is marked by excellent detail, and also gives a much needed overview of the whole “southern” experience.
In the context of mass migration from eastern and southern Europe, around the turn of the twentieth century, "Demetrios Is Now Jimmy" specifically examines the arrival of Greek immigrants to the southern cities of the United States and the newcomers' remarkably rapid adjustment to life in the developing New South.
By and large, Greeks in the South tended to earn their living by operating small service businesses, such as sandwich shops, shoe-shine stands, fruit stalls, and other ventures requiring minimal start up money. The author successfully tests the thesis, advanced by both historian Theodore Saloutos and social historian Charles Moskos, that in the South, entrepreneurial contact with the American majority population accelerated the adaptation of Greek immigrants to
American ways. The Greeks realized much earlier than their compatriots, in other areas, that America would become their permanent home. Odzak aptly describes their rise to middle class status, along with the constant conflict faced by every immigrant family: a desire to be accepted into the social and economic fabric of the new homeland, while at the same time trying to preserve and maintain the inherited Hellenic culture and traditions, and especially their Orthodox religion.
The author's chapter on the formation of the AHEPA, during the rise of the second Ku Klux Klan, is most engaging, as he describes for us the ingenious way founders of our fraternal organization managed to deflect the nativist hate for all that was foreign. Other chapters cover a variety of Greek immigrant experiences in diverse southern cities, including Atlanta, Birmingham, and New Orleans, where one finds the earliest Greek Orthodox parishes in the South, and Tarpon Springs, where Greek sponge divers populate the only Greek-town in the Southern states".