Researching Our Past

Our project will begin by researching the very first Arabic-speaking people who settled in central Indiana, including families such as the Kfouris, Salibas, Freijes, Hiders, Matouks, Mitreys, and Shaheens. Community members and IUPUI student researchers will identity where the earliest families came from, how they got here, what neighborhoods they settled in, and where they worked or went to school. We will also learn about their military service in both World War I and World War II, the social clubs they founded, the businesses they launched, and the recreation that they enjoyed.

Then, looking past World War II, we will discover information on Arabic-speaking immigrants who settled in the area after the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Lebanese Civil War of 1975, the 1991 Gulf War, and the various conflagrations set off by the U.S. war on terror after 9/11. Many Arab Americans sought education and opportunity in central Indiana. Several participants in the project are health care professionals, and we will document their contributions to Indianapolis’ reputation for medical excellence. Others are educators or leaders in their Christian or Muslim religious congregations. A few are race car drivers.

Community researchers will gather pictures and other sources. In addition, we will use collections at the Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis city directories, Sanborn insurance maps, the Indianapolis Star, and a catalogue of items available via Ancestry.Com, which has digitized U.S. Census records, ship manifests, military records, birth and death certificates, and marriage licenses, among other things.

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