French Americans or Franco-Americans are citizens or permanent residents of the United States of French descent. About 11.8 million U.S. residents are of French descent, and about 1.6 million speak French at home. An additional 450,000 U.S. residents speak a French-based creole language, according to the 2000 census.
While Americans of French descent make up a substantial percentage of the American population, French Americans arguably are less visible than other similarly-sized ethnic groups. This is due in part to the high degree of assimilation among Huguenot (French Protestant) settlers, as well as the tendency of French American groups to identify more strongly with "New World" regional identities such as Québécois, French Canadian, Acadian, Cajun, or Louisiana Creole. This has inhibited the development of a wider French American identity.
While found throughout the country, they are most numerous in New England, Northern New York, Louisiana (where more than 15% of the population of the Cajun Country reported in the last census that French was spoken at home) and Michigan. French Louisiana, when it was sold by Napoleon in 1803, covered all or part of than fifteen current U.S. states and contained French colonists dispersed across it, though they were most numerous in its southernmost portion.
Often, Franco-Americans are identified more specifically as being of French Canadian, Cajun, or Louisiana Creole descent. An important part of French American history is the Quebec diaspora of the 1840s-1930s, in which one million French Canadians moved to the United States, principally to the New England states, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Historically, the French in Canada had among the highest birth rates in world history, which is why their population was large even though immigration from France was relatively low. They also moved to different regions within Canada, namely Ontario and Manitoba. Many of the early male migrants worked in the lumber industry in both regions, and, to lesser degree, in the burgeoning mining industry in the upper Great Lakes.
Another significant source of immigrants was Saint Domingue, which gained its independence as the Republic of Haiti in 1804 following a bloody revolution; much of its white population (along with some mulattoes) fled during this time, often to Louisiana, where they largely assimilated into the Creole culture.
The Cajuns of Louisiana have a unique heritage. Their ancestors settled Acadia, in what is now the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. In 1755, after capturing Fort Beauséjour in the region, the British army forced the Acadians to either swear an oath of loyalty to the British crown or face expulsion. Thousands refused to take the oath, causing them to be sent, penniless, to the 13 colonies to the south in what has become known as the Great Upheaval. Over the next generation, some four thousand managed to make the long trek to Louisiana, where they began a new life. The name Cajun is a corruption of the word Acadian. Many still live in what is known as the Cajun Country, where much of their colonial culture survives.
Because the ancestors of most French Americans had for the most part left France before the French Revolution, they usually identify more with the Fleur-de-lis of monarchical France than with the modern French tricolor.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau of 2000, French Americans (of French and French-Canadian ancestry) made up close to, or more than, 10% of the population of:
|New Hampshire||25.2%||Vermont||23.3%||Maine||22.8%||Rhode Island||17.2%||Louisiana||16.2%||Massachusetts||12.9%||Connecticut||9.9%|
In states that once made up part of New France (excluding Louisiana):
French Americans also made up more than 4% of the population in
National percentage of Americans of French & French-Canadian ancestry: 5.3% States with the largest French communities include (according to the 2000 U.S. Census) French and French-Canadian
As a result of French immigration to what is now the United States in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the French language was once widely spoken in much of the country, especially in the former Louisiana Territory, as well as in the Northeast. French-language newspapers existed in many American cities, especially New Orleans. Americans of French descent often lived in French-dominated neighborhoods, where they attended schools and churches that used their language. In New England, Upstate New York and the Midwest, French-Canadian neighborhoods were known as "Little Canadas".
French-American Foundation/Harris Interactive Study Taps U.S. and French Opinion, Reveals Resurgence of Goodwill Between Two Countries.
Nov 08, 2010; International relations between France and the U.S. have thawed, says a national survey released. The poll, which sampled the...