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News Release Nov. 20, 2002

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 20, 2002
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Joel Wurl, Immigration History Research Center, (612) 625-0553, wurlx001@umn.edu

IHRC Acquires Papers of Arab American Leader Frank Maria In October

the IHRC received collection of ca.100 linear feet of archival and published materials produced and accumulated by Francis Maria (1913–2001), one of the nation’s leading spokespersons for Middle Eastern affairs in the mid-to-late 20th century and a prominent activist in Arab American community life. The collection was donated to the IHRC by the Francis Maria Foundation for Justice and Peace in Warner,NH.

Frank Maria was born in 1913 in Lowell, MA, the son of Syrian immigrants. His early professional career was devoted to teaching and educational administration. Following military service in the Marines, he became an industrial executive specializing in labor relations and personnel management.This experience in human relations figured significantly in his role as a national consultant in business, educational, and government circles and in his work on Middle East issues, including political activities.

From the 1940s through the 1990s, Maria participated in volunteer humanitarian, educational, justice,and peace activities involving the Middle East. Representing the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, he served for many years on the board of the National Council of Churches and as a delegate to the World Council of Churches. In 1960he was a member of the US Delegation to the Eleventh General Session of UNESCO in Paris, France. In 1985, he was instrumental in bringing about the first ecumenical summit level discussion among US Christian leaders and leaders of the Jewish and Islamic international communities, and in 1988 he was invited to Geneva as consultant for the UN General Special Assembly on the subject of Palestine.

Maria was deeply involved in several Arab American organizations on a national as well as regional (New England) level. Among these, the early Syrian and Lebanese Federation evolved into the American Arabic Association, and through the years various others followed: the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, the National Association of Arab Americans, and others. Throughout his life, he was actively involved in social justice issues. As a leader in Arab American community life, Maria was frequently called on to serve as a speaker and media commentator on Middle East issues from an Arab American perspective during the often tumultuous decades of the latter half of the 20th century.

The Frank Maria collection includes extensive files of correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, and more reflecting his wide-ranging career and involvement in national and international organizations. Also included are many Arab American newspapers and serials from throughout the United States as well as printed material from sources worldwide touching on subjects pertaining to the Arab world.

The Maria collection transforms the IHRC’s Arab American holdings into one of the nation’s most extensive repositories on this community and the international issues surrounding it. These materials join the already research-rich papers of scholar Philip K. Hitti, community activist and journalist James Ansara, publisher Mary Mokarzel, and others.

The IHRC acknowledges with much gratitude the support and assistance of the Maria Foundation and particularly board member M. J. Ekstrand, who personally coordinated the packing and shipping of the collection from New Hampshire with the help of IHRC Curator Joel Wurl and several Warner volunteers.

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