New Coffee Table Book Extols the Legacy of Newark’s Greek Community
It is the story of the American Dream fulfilled and it has been captured in a coffee-table book that will ensure the heart, soul and memories of an immigrant community are preserved forever in Newark, the city that gave them a better future.
The book: Remembering Newark’s Greeks: An American Odyssey, is the work of Angelique Lampros, a former educator and administrator in the South Orange/Maplewood school district and a Newark native. She, along with co-curator Peter Markos, was instrumental in gathering the memorabilia for the Library’s Greek exhibit in 2002, and has successfully transcribed that information into a glossy publication.
Her book, 192 pages with more than 300 photographs and excerpts from interviews with dozens of people, will be on sale for $40 through The Newark Public Library and all proceeds will benefit the Hellenic Heritage Fund. The fund was established to collect the material exhibited in 2002. The Fund will also ensure the material is preserved forever at The Newark Public Library.
"The information was placed on microfilm, digitized, and preserved," said Lampros. "These are the voices, the images of the people of Newark, the Greek Americans of Newark, and this information will be available to their children and children’s’ children at The Newark Public Library forever."
The Library has scheduled a book signing with Lampros at 6 p.m., on Thursday, November 30 at Snuffy’s Pantagis Renaissance, 250 Park Avenue, (off Route 22) in Scotch Plains. Copies of the book will be available. The public is welcome to attend.
"The Newark Public Library has captured the essence of the Greek community," said Wilma J. Grey; library director. "First through the three-month exhibit we had in 2002 that featured more than 500 pictures and artifacts, and now within the pages of this magnificent book."
At one time all the immigrants who arrived in New Jersey from Greece seemed to live in Newark; or close enough to attend St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church every Sunday and send their children to the church’s after-school Greek program. Now little is left of the community that helped shape a city. Even the church, long a bastion of the Central Ward neighborhood where it was founded more than 100 years ago, is leaving Newark.
But the memories remain.
Lampros remembers attending Greek school at St. Nicholas church as a young girl. Students attending the after-school program learned to read and write in Greek. They learned the history of Greece and once a week had religious instruction.
"This is not just a book of the exhibit held at the Library in 2002; this book includes interviews with second and third generation Greek Americans. This book captures the voice of the Greek community, its past and its future," Lampros said.
Statistically, the Greeks were a small portion of Newark’s population; numbering about 8,000 at their peak in the early 20th century. But their hard work and industry, their commitment to community and family, helped shape the city. Between the 1920s and 1950s, 65 percent of the city’s downtown eateries were owned and run by Greeks.
The Greek immigrants who had started their new lives in America working in leather tanneries, on railroad construction gangs, as street cleaners, cigar rollers, peddlers, waiters and shoeshine boys came to own the city’s luncheonettes, its movie houses and coffee shops. They became the city’s florists and bakers. Their children, many of them college graduates, became doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers and other professionals.
In his foreward to the book, Dr. Clement Alexander Price, a Rutgers-Newark professor of history and the director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience, wrote, "The Greek experience in Newark enlivened the city during a period of economic promise and cultural diversity that unfolded from the late 19th Century through the first three decades of the 20th Century."
"It was the city’s Golden Era," Price said. He believes the growth of the public sphere in education, the arts and cultural institutions, growth typical to the era, pushed Newark into a more diverse and cosmopolitan place. "The Greek immigrants and their progeny were hardly bystanders to this emerging change in the way Newarkers entered the 20th Century. They established a foundation for a community of remarkable cohesion and purpose."
That cohesion is evident today.
Grey, the Library director, pointed out, SSeveral thousand people visited the Library in 2002 just to see this exhibit. The pictures and artifacts covered the Library’s public spaces on three floors and filled 40 display cases."
"This was a learning experience for me," said Lampros. "I hadn’t realized how universal our experiences were growing up until I heard the life stories of my parents, their contemporaries and my own childhood friends and contemporaries."
For more information about the book or to reserve a copy of the publication, please call The Newark Public Library at 973-424-1832 or log on to the Library’s Web site at http://www.npl.org/Pages/ProgramsExhibits/Programs/greek06.html.
©2006 The Newark Public Library