Arabic manuscript by Ameen Rihani
Portrait of three women by painter Assad Ghosn
Sheet music from Arab American composer Alexander Maloof
Dancer at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair
Arab American newspaper Mira’at al-Gharb


An Exhibition of Early Arab American Culture


معرض عن ثقافة العرب الأمريكيين الأوائل

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Between 1880 and 1940, nearly 100,000 Arabs (mainly from Lebanon and Syria) immigrated  to the United States. They were part of the era of mass migration which brought millions from across the world to an America desperately in need of workers for its growing economy. Their experiences in America’s towns and factories, along its roads and in its schools, with its promises and challenges necessitated a re-imagining of themselves and their collective identities. 


These re-inventions of self and community were driven by the tensions early Arab immigrants experienced between the homes they left and the ones they adopted, and animated by the differences between the social practices and values they brought with them and those they encountered in the U.S. In the process, new and vibrant cultural forms and productions emerged and reshaped Arab Americans, America, and the Middle East.

To highlight these cultural innovations, and commemorate the centenary of the first Arab American literary society in the U.S. (al-Rabita al-Qalamiyya, 1920), the Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies curated this exhibition. Through it we celebrate early Arab American culture, and tell the stories of the accomplishments of Arab American musicians, writers, poets, artists, performers and journalists.


Assad Ghosn painting of an oriental scene
Early Arab American writer Afifa Karam


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