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April 05, 2023

Celebrating Arab Heritage in Indiana: Arab American Heritage Month 2023

By Jessica Layman, Local History and Genealogy Librarian

Did you know that people with Arab heritage have been living in Indiana for more than 100 years?

Many assumptions are made about people who identify as Arab. Generally speaking, people of Arab descent or their ancestors are from countries in the Middle East and North Africa. They are sometimes Muslim, sometimes Orthodox Christian, or sometimes other religions. They very often speak Arabic, perhaps in addition to other languages.

Here in Indiana, up to 1,000 Arab people came to Indianapolis between the late 1800s and 1910. This group came mostly from Syria and Lebanon and settled in an area now dominated by Lucas Oil Stadium on the near South side. Over time, they built a community. Today, there are close to 30,000 Arab Hoosiers, with a population of 5,600 in Indianapolis and 3,200 in Hamilton County.

Arab Indianapolis: A Hidden History

Dr. Edward Curtis, himself a descendant of the first group of Arab immigrants to come to Indiana, is a history professor at IUPUI. He started a blog that explored the history of Arab immigrants in Indianapolis, and it soon became the basis for his book, Arab Indianapolis (2022). This also sparked the inspiration for his Arab Indianapolis: A Hidden History (2022) documentary on PBS. Because of his efforts, in 2022, April was declared to be Arab American Heritage Month in Indiana. This gives Hoosiers a great opportunity to learn more about their neighbors and themselves by celebrating the heritage of this community.

Join HEPL in celebrating Arab American Heritage Month at the Fishers Library on Saturday, April 29 from 2-4 PM. There will be a screening of the PBS documentary Arab Indianapolis: A Hidden History, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with Hamilton County residents featured in the documentary. The facilitator of the panel discussion, Hiba Alalami, is the inaugural Executive Director of the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network. This program is supported in part by a grant from Indiana Humanities.

Sign up to attend this program today!

Research Help

Interested in local history or ancestry research? HEPL’s Indiana Room at Noblesville Library and their experienced staff are ready to assist!

As part of the new Crossroads Discovery Center, the Indiana Room continues to focus on local history and genealogy. This means that no matter where your ancestors are from, we can help you find out more about your family story! Even during construction, we have access to lots of resources that can help get you started on your genealogy journey. We are also always curating our collection to provide the best resources available, so keep an eye out for new materials! Come visit us on the first floor of the Noblesville library in the Rotary Reading Room.

For those interested in Arab heritage specifically, we recommend the following resources:

Beginning Your Middle East Family Tree


The Beginner’s Guide to Arab American Genealogy

Arab American Heritage Month Booklists

Interested in exploring or learning the Arabic language?

Explore: Arab Language items in the HEPL collection

Learn: Mango Languages is FREE to use with your library card!

Adult Titles

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See the full list here.

Youth Titles

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