Professor studies the Syrian/Lebanese community in Grand Rapids

James Goode, professor of history, had wanted to research the history of the Syrian community in Grand Rapids since the 1980s when he met Karen Henry, a member of that community.


His book, “A History of the Syrian Community of Grand Rapids, 1890-1945: From the Beqaa to the Grand,” aims to share the history of the Syrians (now Lebanese) in Grand Rapids with the descendants of that community.


With the assistance of five Grand Valley history students, Goode interviewed 40 individuals who are second- and third-generation descendents of Lebanese Americans, including Henry. Although most of the people interviewed were Antiochian Orthodox, Goode made his own discoveries while studying the community’s religious affiliations.


“Through my research, I found that there was a small Syrian Muslim community in Grand Rapids by the end of World War I,” said Goode. “I conducted more interviews after the students I was working with graduated, and I have devoted a chapter of the book to this Muslim community.”


In 2006, Goode visited the Lebanese villages that the community in Grand Rapids came from to gain additional perspective for his book. All of the research materials were deposited in the Grand Rapids Public Library in the local history section and are available to the public.


Goode said that the book provides a history of the early years of this immigrant group, not only for Lebanese descendants but also for the larger Grand Rapids community. Goode will use portions of the book in his teaching of Middle East history courses.

Page last modified April 11, 2013