Coming Soon to AANM:
"Little Syria" Exhibition


Little Syria neighborhoodFrom the late 19th century through the mid-20th century, an area of Manhattan’s lower west side was the home to a vibrant and productive community of early Arab Americans. Dubbed the “heart of New York’s Arab world” by The New York Times, the Washington Street neighborhood was commonly referred to as both the “Syrian Colony” and “The Mother Colony” because of its large concentration of immigrants from Syria and Lebanon.

It was here that many immigrants from the first wave of Arab immigration to the United States got their start in a land of new opportunity. Their experiences, all but lost to living memory, parallel those of other immigrant groups of The Great Migration period. 

A new exhibition being developed by the Arab American National Museum (AANM) seeks to resurrect and document the stories and history of this early community while educating the public on important legacies of Arab Americans in New York. It is tentatively scheduled to open in Fall 2012 at a New York venue, followed by a run at the AANM.

Inquiries, including potential artifact donations, may be directed to Curator of Exhibits Elizabeth Barrett Sullivan at 313.624.0234 or HERE.

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Little Syria was a neighborhood of many firsts. It was the home of literary greats Kahlil Gibran and Ameen Rihani, both members of the first Arab American literary society known as Al-Rabi'ah al-Qalamiyah (The Pen League). Some of the first Arabic language newspapers including Al Hoda, the originator of the Arabic linotype, got their start in the Washington Street neighborhood.

New York’s first Arab Christian churches, St. Joseph’s Maronite Church and St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, began their congregations by providing places of worship for the then burgeoning Arab American community. Moreover, many residents of the neighborhood began their lives in America as peddlers, merchants, restaurateurs, and laborers in local mills and factories. It was here that they laid the foundation for generations to come in the United States.

Kids in Little SyriaThe AANM's Little Syria exhibition will document and celebrate the rich history of New York’s first Arab American community. The exhibition will provide a space for reflection and discussion on the presence of Arab Americans in lower Manhattan; a particularly important and timely subject given the events of the past decade that have affected this part of New York City. Furthermore, the exhibition will build community history and collective memory, thus serving as a source of pride for all Arab Americans.


Click HERE for information about an independent effort to preserve the remaining buildings of Little Syria in New York City.

Watch a short documentary about Washington Street HERE.

For information about booking, please contact Elizabeth Chilton at echilton@accesscommunity.org.





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