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Arab-American Faces and Voices

The Origins of an Immigrant Community

By Elizabeth Boosahda

Publication Year: 2003

As Arab Americans seek to claim their communal identity and rightful place in American society at a time of heightened tension between the United States and the Middle East, an understanding look back at more than one hundred years of the Arab-American community is especially timely. In this book, Elizabeth Boosahda, a third-generation Arab American, draws on over two hundred personal interviews, as well as photographs and historical documents that are contemporaneous with the first generation of Arab Americans (Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians), both Christians and Muslims, who immigrated to the Americas between 1880 and 1915, and their descendants. Boosahda focuses on the Arab-American community in Worcester, Massachusetts, a major northeastern center for Arab immigration, and Worcester’s links to and similarities with Arab-American communities throughout North and South America. Using the voices of Arab immigrants and their families, she explores their entire experience, from emigration at the turn of the twentieth century to the present-day lives of their descendants. This rich documentation sheds light on many aspects of Arab-American life, including the Arab entrepreneurial motivation and success, family life, education, religious and community organizations, and the role of women in initiating immigration and the economic success they achieved.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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CONTENTS

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p. vii-vii

ILLUSTRATIONS

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pp. viii-x

MAPS

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p. xi-xi

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PREFACE

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pp. xi-xiv

The time is right for sharing thoughts about ‘‘my people’’—Americans of Arab ancestry—the Lebanese, a few Syrians, and fewer Palestinians, predominantly Christian, but a few Druze (a sect in Islam named after Ismail al-Darazi, a religious leader who died in 1019) and fewer Muslim. From 1880 to 1915 they emigrated in small numbers from the Ottoman Empire provinces of Syria ...

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xv-xvi

By telling and retelling our Arab-American story, we reclaim the authorship of our own history. I completed this book with the cooperative and collective help of more people than can be named here. Each of them knows who he or she is and to each of them, many thanks. However, I am particularly indebted to those early immigrants ...

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DISCLAIMER

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p. xvii-xvii

As author of this book I have the ultimate historical responsibility for its accuracy. It is based on research, primary-source oral interviews, and corroboration with numerous sources. To the best of my knowledge the content of this text is factual and true. ...

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METHODOLOGY: Data Collection

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pp. xviii-xx

This anecdotal, sociohistorical documentation of an ethnic group that migrated to the United States from 1880 to 1915 was compiled from taped interviews by the author with nearly 200 people—usually naturalized Americans of Arab ancestry (Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian). Most of them were in their late eighties, many were in their nineties, and one was aged 106. ...

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Chapter One: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

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pp. 1-16

The Arab heritage encompasses a diversity of nationalities and religions. It is a cultural and linguistic identity deeply rooted in the feeling of many people and countries and expressed through a single language and common customs, traditions, and values. Being Arab is not a racial identity, and to identify an Arab by his or her features or name is difficult. ...

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Chapter Two: MIGRATION

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pp. 17-48

One of the thousands of immigrants was Bashara K. Forzley, who emigrated from Karhoun (now Qaraaoun, Lebanon). In his autobiography he remembers the words of wisdom spoken by his mother regarding his personal journey: ...

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Chapter Three: MULTICULTURAL AND MULTIRELIGIOUS NEIGHBORHOODS

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pp. 49-64

From the hills and valleys of western Syria, the Arab-American immigrants made their journey to the hills and valleys of Worcester. They settled in three vibrant multicultural and multireligious neighborhoods on the east side of the city near the Union Passenger Railroad Station. ...

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Chapter Four: WORK

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pp. 65-90

The immigrant’s first phase of earning a living was usually as a merchant of dry goods and notions, commonly called a pack peddler.The peddlers were married couples working together or singly, unmarried men or women, widowers or widows, and teenage boys. They traveled door-to-door to the outskirts of the city and surrounding towns by foot or by horse and buggy ...

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Chapter Five: TRADITION, EDUCATION, AND CULTURE

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pp. 91-130

While striving to earn a living, peddling and otherwise, most young Arab Americans had the goal of marriage to spur them on. The marriage customs described in this book followed a traditional pattern in the Christian Arab- American community. (Since many early Muslim and Druze Arab Americans had returned to their homelands or died by the late 1980s ...

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Chapter Six: AMERICANIZATION

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pp. 131-170

While most Arab-American immigrants retained their Arab culture and ties to their homelands, they nevertheless chose to become U.S. citizens. To do this, they had to file two papers: a Declaration of Intention to become a citizen and, after a five-year residency, a petition for naturalization. The only exception to the residency requirement was made for men who had served in the armed forces. ...

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Chapter Seven: LEGACY AND LINKAGE

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pp. 171-196

The descendants of the early Arab-American immigrants who emigrated from1880 to1915 are generally proud people.They love their Arab heritage and warmly embrace their American nationality. Their elders influenced them by establishing linkages to their social and cultural heritage through language, food, family record keeping, music, photos, traditions, and holiday celebrations. ...

Addendum I: PRIVATE-SECTOR ORGANIZATIONS

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pp. 197-203

Addendum II: THE MIDDLE EAST AND THE ARAB WORLD AFTER WORLD WAR II

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pp. 204-206

Genealogy: EXPANDED KINSHIP IN ONE FAMILY

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pp. 207-210

TIMELINE OF EASTERN ORTHODOX SYRIAN CHURCH

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pp. 211-221

NOTES

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pp. 222-243

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 244-247

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ILLUSTRATION CREDITS

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p. 248-248

The persons interviewed loaned the majority of the pre–1920 photographs in this book. Most were taken at photographic studios that no longer exist. Most of the studios used in Worcester, for example, were located in downtown (six on Front Street and three on Main Street): C. L. Blair, 44 Front Street; J. A. Cassone, 194 Front Street; Duke’s Studio, 421 ...

ANNOTATED SUGGESTED READING

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pp. 249-259

ORGANIZATIONS, COLLECTIONS, AND EXHIBITS

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pp. 260-266

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

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p. 267-267

INDEX OF ARABIC TERMS

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pp. 268-269

GENERAL INDEX

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pp. 270-284


E-ISBN-13: 9780292798885
E-ISBN-10: 0292798881
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292709195
Print-ISBN-10: 0292709196

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 83 b&w illus., 5 maps, 1 figure
Publication Year: 2003

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Subject Headings

  • Latin America -- Emigration and immigration -- History.
  • United States -- Emigration and immigration -- History.
  • Immigrants -- Massachusetts -- Worcester -- History.
  • Arab Americans -- Massachusetts -- Worcester -- Interviews.
  • Immigrants -- Massachusetts -- Worcester -- History -- Sources.
  • Worcester (Mass.) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Arab Americans -- Massachusetts -- Worcester -- History -- Sources.
  • Arab countries -- Emigration and immigration -- History.
  • Arab Americans -- Massachusetts -- Worcester -- History.
  • Arabs -- Migrations -- History.
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