It was a different time in Lackawanna, New York – the steel mills were operating, polyester leisure suits and long hair were the fashion, and televisions had tubes. In Lackawanna’s Yemeni Community, recent immigrants found jobs, raised families and established institutions to provide for a more secure and happy existence. Children learned Arabic in the basement of the mosque, they took pride in the boys’ soccer team, and extended families provided their members with economic and emotional support.
It was at this time that Milton Rogovin, a photographer, came to document the lives of Lackawanna’s Yemeni residents. Rogovin saw beauty in their faces, their traditional dress and their enjoyment of life. He recognized the dignity of their hard and honest work. He was intrigued by their efforts to embrace their new identities as Americans while holding on to their cherished Yemeni values and traditions.
Much has changed in Lackawanna since the 1970s. Most of the steel industry has relocated to another continent, the mosque was remodeled, the soccer field has moved across town, and loved ones have passed away. But the underlying foundations of family values, honest work, and commitment to community continue to drive a new generation. Milton Rogovin’s photographs enable us to remember how life was; but they also help us reflect on how we as humans adapt to a continually changing environment. They celebrate the dignity and beauty of decent, loving, hard-working people who rarely enjoy official recognition – the people Milton Rogovin calls “The Forgotten Ones.”