The “Syrian Town” Oral History Project, Easton, PA

I developed this project in response to interest among elderly community members and with the express purpose of providing an opportunity to engage undergraduates in field research.  Research has been supported by a “Community of Scholars” grant from Lafayette College and the Mellon Foundation, and by individual Excel Scholar grants.

“Syrian Town” was a multiethnic neighborhood at the heart of Easton, and was dismantled with 1960s urban renewal projects.  Once composed of Lebanese-, Italian-, Anglo- and African-American residents in roughly equal proportions, it lives on in the memories of former residents. Students and I have been reconstructing the neighborhood using Sanborn map and other images, a database of former residents, and by collecting oral histories.  A multimedia website is under construction.

Co-authored publications with Excel Scholars are underway. “The Language of “Blight” and Easton’s “Lebanese Town”: Understanding a Neighborhood’s Loss to Urban Renewal” was published by the Pennsylvania Historical Society in 2010 (with Rachel Scarpato, ‘08). An article was published in the Lafayette website with regards to this work. Subsequent research with Anna Eisenstein (‘13) has led to the forthcoming publication, “Thoroughly Mixed Yet Thoroughly Ethnic: Indexing Class with Ethnonyms” (Journal of Linguistics Anthropology).