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Original Essays | September 18, 2014

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On a hot July evening years ago, my Toyota Tercel overheated on a flat stretch of highway north of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A steam geyser shot up from... Continue »
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Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America

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Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In the final years of the nineteenth century, small groups of Muslim peddlers arrived at Ellis Island every summer, bags heavy with embroidered silks from their home villages in Bengal. The American demand for "Oriental goods" took these migrants on a curious path, from New Jersey's beach boardwalks into the heart of the segregated South. Two decades later, hundreds of Indian Muslim seamen began jumping ship in New York and Baltimore, escaping the engine rooms of British steamers to find less brutal work onshore. As factory owners sought their labor and anti-Asian immigration laws closed in around them, these men built clandestine networks that stretched from the northeastern waterfront across the industrial Midwest.

The stories of these early working-class migrants vividly contrast with our typical understanding of immigration. Vivek Bald's meticulous reconstruction reveals a lost history of South Asian sojourning and life-making in the United States. At a time when Asian immigrants were vilified and criminalized, Bengali Muslims quietly became part of some of America's most iconic neighborhoods of color, from Tremé in New Orleans to Detroit's Black Bottom, from West Baltimore to Harlem. Many started families with Creole, Puerto Rican, and African American women.

As steel and auto workers in the Midwest, as traders in the South, and as halal hot dog vendors on 125th Street, these immigrants created lives as remarkable as they are unknown. Their stories of ingenuity and intermixture challenge assumptions about assimilation and reveal cross-racial affinities beneath the surface of early twentieth-century America.

Synopsis:

Nineteenth-century Muslim peddlers arrived at Ellis Island, bags heavy with embroidered silks from their villages in Bengal. Demand for "Oriental goods" took these migrants on a curious path, from New Jersey's boardwalks into the segregated South. Bald's history reveals cross-racial affinities below the surface of early twentieth-century America.

Synopsis:

2013 Theodore Saloutos Memorial Book Award, Immigration and Ethnic History Society

About the Author

Vivek Bald is Assistant Professor of Writing and Digital Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the director of three documentary films: Taxi-vala/Auto-biography, Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music, and In Search of Bengali Harlem

Product Details

ISBN:
9780674066663
Author:
Bald, Vivek
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Location:
Cambridge
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
African American Studies-General
Subject:
Social Science-Ethnic Studies - Asian American Studies
Subject:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies/African-American Studies
Subject:
Social Science-Emigration & Immigration
Subject:
HISTORY / Social History
Subject:
Ethnic Studies-Asian American
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Cloth
Publication Date:
20130107
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Illustrations:
17 halftones, 2 maps, 4 tables
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » African American Studies » General
History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Asian American
History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Immigration
History and Social Science » Sociology » Islamic Studies
History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General

Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America New Hardcover
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Product details 320 pages Harvard University Press - English 9780674066663 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Nineteenth-century Muslim peddlers arrived at Ellis Island, bags heavy with embroidered silks from their villages in Bengal. Demand for "Oriental goods" took these migrants on a curious path, from New Jersey's boardwalks into the segregated South. Bald's history reveals cross-racial affinities below the surface of early twentieth-century America.
"Synopsis" by , 2013 Theodore Saloutos Memorial Book Award, Immigration and Ethnic History Society
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