From Anatolia to the New World - Life Stories of the First Turkish Immigrants to America

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

Those are the verses of Emma Lazarus inscribed on the pedestal of New York’s Statue of Liberty. The USA is a country founded by people who immigrated from every corner of the globe. Though it is little known, immigrants also came from the Ottoman Empire when it was collapsing. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both Muslim and non-Muslim Turks went to try their luck in the New World. The political, economic, and social disasters created in the empire by the Balkan Wars and the First World War; the fear of being drafted into the army; letters portraying America as a land of opportunity whose streets were paved with gold; the introduction of steamships and the telegraph…these were all factors that stimulated immigration to the USA. The non-Muslims, and especially the Armenians, had no intention of going back and joined their communities there. The Muslims, on the other hand, dreamed of making money and going back home, and most of them did in fact go back. Drawing upon eyewitness testimony, Rıfat N. Bali tells the story of a century of Turkish immigrants to the USA.