To walk in the footsteps of strangers

Back in 2020, the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies announced the release of Turath, a path-breaking virtual exhibit that maps the rich mosaic of early Arab American culture through music, literature, poetry, art, performance and journalism. 

Turath offers a broad and momentous collection of material for general interest and specialized researchers alike. But the broader and more important goal is to honor the rich and diverse cultural lives and accomplishments of early Arab Americans (1880-1950), whose stories have largely been untold. 

In addition to highlighting well known cultural figures, this exhibition introduces an expansive and unprecedented perspective incorporating women writers, geographies outside of New York, while highlighting non-literary productions such as art, performance, music and the media. 

Just south of the World Trade Center district sits the location of a forgotten Manhattan immigrant community. Curious outsiders called it Little Syria although the residents themselves would have known it as the Syrian Colony

Starting in the 1880s people from the Middle East began arriving at New York’s immigrant processing station — immigrants from Greater Syria which at that time was a part of the Ottoman Empire were among those people. 

But who were these Syrian immigrants who made their homes in New York? Why did they arrive? What were their lives like? And although Little Syria is long gone, what remains of this extraordinary district?

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