Preserving History

Preserving the history of the Arab American community is a primary goal of the AAHC. It is important to document the beginnings of the Arab American community and the growth of the community over time. The work of documenting and preserving Arab American history was originally taken up by the late founder of the AAHC, Anthony Mansour, and has continued for over 40 years. Look below to see the process of preserving the history of the Arab American community in Flint.  

Phase 1

Starting in the early 1980s, the Founder & President of the AAHC, Anthony (Tony) Mansour, began interviewing Arab American families who had helped build the Arab community in Flint. This work helped to trace the history of the Arab American community in Flint and build a sense of collective identity. In 1985, the work was titled the Oral History Project. Tony continued these interviews through the 1990s gathering as much information as he could. Many of these interviews were recorded on video tapes and cassettes for preservation.

Phase 2

In 1997, the Ruth Mott Foundation provided a grant to formalize the project allowing for more interviews and better preservation of the records of the interviews. The work continued for 7 more years until 2004, when Tony finished the first version of the history project titled The Peddler to Merchant Generation: Our Arab American Pioneers. The book traced the history of the Arab American community of Flint through specific families that were interviewed, chronicling their stories and family histories.

Phase 3

After multiple years of revision, Tony completed the final copy of the project In 2010 naming it Our Pioneers from Al Watan. This work was the continuation of The Peddler to Merchant Generation: Our Arab American Pioneers and is the crowning achievement of Tony’s history project in which he spent 30 years recording the stories of Arab American families in Flint. The 330 page book covers 83 major Arab American families of Flint who are highlighted through detailed historical records, photographs, and interviews. Hard copies of the book are kept in the AAHC office.

Digital copies of the book are available for purchase by contacting the AAHC office.

1997

In May 1997, the Arab American Archives were started at the University of Michigan-Flint Library. This project was funded by Ruth Mott Foundation through a generous research grant. This grant allowed for the proper preservation of Arab American interviews and records for the first time.

2002

In 2002, Hani Bawardi, a former member of the AAHC & current professor at UM-Dearborn, donated a collection on Arab American families to the University of Michigan-Flint. This collection primarily focused on Arab American immigrant families connected with St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church.

The collection can be found here:

https://www.umflint.edu/archives/hani-bawardi-collection

2005

In August 2005, the entirety of Tony Mansour’s interviews and documentation was added to the University of Michigan-Flint Library to create the Anthony Mansour Arab American Collection. This was the culmination of 25 years of work documenting the Arab American community in the Flint area.

The collection can be viewed at the following link:

https://www.umflint.edu/archives/anthony-mansour-arab-american-collection

A partnership was developed between the University of Michigan – Flint and the Arab American Heritage Council to record interviews with Arab Americans on their experiences in Flint. The series of interviews took place between 2014 and 2015. The links to the interviews can be found below.

Interview with Fr. Joseph Abud of St. George Church

Interview with Mona Sahouri, Former Executive Director of the AAHC

Interview with Mona Helmy

Interview with Husam Alghanem

Interview with Heather Nassar

Interview with Salwa & Samir Kandalaft

The Arab American Heritage Council, in partnership with the Arab American National Museum and with funding from the Ruth Mott Foundation, launched the Honoring our Heritage project in 2016. The project sought to continue the work of Tony Mansour and include the stories of a new generation of Arab Americans in the Flint area. A wide ranging, public call for participation was made and in the end, 18 new families had their stories documented. The digital scrapbooks created for each family are preserved both on the AAHC YouTube channel and the Arab American National Museum collections archive.

The links to both sites are listed below.

AAHC YouTube Channel

AANM Collections Archive

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