Skip to content How a secret wave of early South Asians found a home in America long before the H-1B immigrants

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Bengali Harlem, a book and an upcoming documentary slated for a PBS broadcast in 2021, offers a glimpse into a South Asian American past that has received very little attention.

Complicating the conventional understanding of South Asians in the United States, it explores the ‘lost’ histories of a wave of South Asian immigrants who moved to the United States between the 1880s and the 1950s – a period when the US had technically closed its doors to Asian immigrants.

Amid anti-immigration laws and rising anti-Asian sentiment in the US, these working-class South Asians built networks that were neglected by the officially documented waves of history of South Asian immigration after the 1950s.

That group became dominant in terms of how we came to think of South Asian Americans…

Rather than spending our energy as South Asian Americans trying to achieve national inclusion, we have to understand exactly what we are trying to include ourselves in.

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