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Near East Collections: Library of Congress, An Illustrated Guide
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The Near East Heritage in America

Combining the symbols of historic Armenia with the preeminent emblem of their newly adopted home, the flag of the United States, the growing Boston Armenian community published the first volume of its Amerikahay Taretsoyts (The Armenian American almanac) in 1912.Combining the symbols of historic Armenia with the preeminent emblem of their newly adopted home, the flag of the United States, the growing Boston Armenian community published the first volume of its Amerikahay Taretsoyts (The Armenian American almanac) in 1912.
(Near East Section)

The Near East collections may seem a tower of Babel to the Western world, yet these represent the literary ancestry of a considerable number of Americans. Sons and daughters of the Near East have journeyed to the New World from the very moment of its discovery; those of Arab and Armenian descent can be traced to the colonial era. It was undeniably, however, with the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century that the trickle of immigrants took on new momentum. At the dawn of the twentieth century, driven by economic motivation as well as a desire to escape from harsh conditions, wars, and massacres, immigrants began to arrive in droves, settling in the agricultural and industrial centers of their newly adopted land, starting families and establishing churches, mosques, and educational and social organizations. In so doing, they began to publish monographs, almanacs, serials, and newspapers both in English and in their native languages. They also attempted to preserve their native identities within the fabric of the new society by documenting their lives in their homeland.


Kawkab Amirka (The star of America), the first Arabic-language newspaper in the United States; its debut issue was published on April 15, 1892, in New York City.  Cover page of the first Arabic-language ladies' magazine, Majallat al-Alam al-jadid al-nisaiyah (The new world: A ladies monthly Arabic magazine), published and edited in New York by Afifa Karam (1883-1924).
Early Arab American publications catered to a variety of interests important to the growing community in the United States. On the left is Kawkab Amirka (The star of America), the first Arabic-language newspaper in the United States; its debut issue was published on April 15, 1892, in New York City. To the right is the cover page of the first Arabic-language ladies' magazine, Majallat al-Alam al-jadid al-nisaiyah (The new world: A ladies monthly Arabic magazine), published and edited in New York by Afifa Karam (1883-1924).
(Near East Section)

The large and older Arab and Armenian communities started their considerable publication activities in the latter part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century. The Arabic-language monthly al-Alam al-jadid (The new world) commenced in 1909. The Armenians produced almanacs for their communities and journals through their native political parties, such as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's Hairenik (Fatherland) (Boston, 1922- present). Iranians of all backgrounds have long been in the Americas, but it was with the fall of the shah in 1979 that massive immigration into the United States brought with it the growth of a diasporan publication activity. The section acquires and preserves the important weekly Iran Times. The Turkish American community trails in size, yet it, too, has established centers that have fostered scholarly publications, as well as popular periodicals such as the important bilingual weekly, Turkish Times. A small yet active Georgian community has been in America since the fall of the short-lived republic in 1920, and it, too, has issued publications that reflect its status within the United States, such as the rare English-language Voice of Free Georgia, which is in the Library's General Collections. Central Asian and Afghani communities are newly represented within the fabric of American society. Although each community is small, together they are beginning to contribute to the plethora of Near Eastern diasporan works published in the United States. All of these materials have been targeted by the Near East Section in its effort to document the experience of the various Middle Eastern communities within the United States.


  Joe Daniels, an Assyrian from Georgia, is seen playing the tar.  Mary Goshtigian, an Armenian, was photographed playing the oud.
The California Folk Music Project, sponsored by the WPA in the 1930s, recorded performances of various immigrant musicians in California. Joe Daniels, an Assyrian from Georgia, is seen playing the tar. Mary Goshtigian, an Armenian, was photographed playing the oud.
(American Folklife Center)

In 1998, American Memory mounted on the Library of Congress Web site "California Gold," the digitized version of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) California Folk Music Project, preserved in the American Folklife Center. The project sought to document the native musical heritage of immigrants to California in the 1930s. Drawings, photographs, and sound recordings of many ethnic groups, including Middle Easterners, are now available to music ethnographers and to the general listening public worldwide through the Internet. (See <//memory.loc.gov/ammem/afccchtml/cowhome.html>) In short, the materials kept in the custody of the Near East Section--whether written in Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Iranian, Turkish, Caucasian, or one of the many other languages of the region--and supplemented by items in other formats of this magnificent archive of world cultures, represent the intellectual heritage of all Americans of Near Eastern ancestry. Preserved are the archetypes of the cultural, artistic, political, and linguistic identities that have in the past contributed to what is uniquely American and will continue to do so in the future.


   HOME  Foreword  Introduction  Note to Researchers  Countries, Areas, and Languages Covered Publications

   Middle East & Religion  Arab World  Armenia & Georgia  Central Asia  Iranian World  Turkey  Near East Heritage

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( November 15, 2010 )
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