University of Minnesota

The Philip Hitti Papers at the Immigration History Research Center

Since its early years, the IHRC has been involved in collaborative studies and collecting efforts to promote research of immigration from the Near East (or the "eastern Mediterranean basin," as Prof. Hitti sometimes preferred to say [1]). Syrian, Lebanese and Turkish American materials form an important component of the IHRC's holdings. In 1966, Philip Hitti (1886-1978), Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, accepted the invitation from the University of Minnesota to teach as visiting professor at its Department of Middle Eastern Languages during the spring semester of 1967. Professors Anwar G. Chejne and Rudolph J. Vecoli were instrumental in developing the relationship between Prof. Hitti, then retired for some years from his long and distinguished career at Princeton, and the University of Minnesota. This relationship later contributed to the decision by Philip Hitti to donate his personal papers to the Immigration History Research Center. The transfer of materials occurred in 1979. This was a major and a very valuable addition to the existing Arab American holdings at the IHRC. IHRC's then Director Rudolph Vecoli wrote in 1987 that after the Hitti Papers had arrived at the Center, they "immediately became the crown jewel of the IHRC's Near Eastern American Collection" [2]. Only two years prior to the Hitti acquisition, the Center had acquired the Papers of Mary Mokarzel, pertaining largely to the Lebanese American newspaper "Al-Hoda" (Guidance) of which Mary Mokarzel was the editor. The newspaper was started by Naoum Mokarzel (her father's brother) in 1898 in Philadelphia. The collection of Mary Mokarzel's papers became a founding block of the IHRC's Near Eastern holdings, and it was Philip Hitti who had suggested to Rudolph Vecoli in 1970 to contact Mary Mokarzel in New York. In 1983, the IHRC sponsored the Philip K. Hitti International Symposium on Near Eastern American Studies. Philip Hitti had without a doubt a profound impact on the development of the Near Eastern program at the IHRC. During the spring semester of 2009, the Hitti Papers processing project produced a new, detailed finding aid that will provide a better access point to the rich collection for interested researchers.

Street scene in Beirut, Lebanon, 1951.


[1] Letter from Philip Hitti to Rudolph Vecoli, Dec. 23, 1970, in IHRC's "Philip Hitti Collection File".

[2] Foreword by Rudolph Vecoli in: Crossing the Waters: Arabic-Speaking Immigrants to the United States before 1940, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 1987, p. xiv.

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