The first exhibition to commemorate the history of Lebanese immigrants who have made North Carolina their home

Cedars in the Pines

Cedars in the Pines

The first exhibition to commemorate the history of Lebanese immigrants who have made North Carolina their home since the 1880s will opened Saturday, Feb. 22, at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. The compelling exhibit Cedars in the Pines will highlight the diverse experiences and contributions of Lebanese Americans in the state. The exhibit will run through Aug. 31, 2014, and admission is free.

Researched and developed by the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies at N.C. State University, the multimedia exhibit features personal stories, family photographs, home movies, letters, artifacts, and audio recordings that bring to life the story of Lebanese immigration in North Carolina. Computer games, Arabic music, a dance floor to learn steps of the dabke, and other interactive components further immerse museum visitors in the Lebanese immigration experience.

Cedars in the Pines recounts the hard work, challenges and contributions of three generations of Lebanese immigrants who have adapted to life in North Carolina while struggling to maintain their cultural heritage,” says Akram Khater, Ph.D., Director of the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies at N.C. State University. “Lebanese Americans have left a lasting impression on the state’s civic, social, political, religious and cultural life.”

Cedars in the Pines
 follows the experiences of Lebanese immigrants from two waves of immigrations. The first wave arrived between the 1880s and the 1920s, when economic decline, famine and war encouraged the Lebanese to leave for the Americas and Africa. Some found their way to North Carolina. Another wave of Lebanese immigrants began to arrive in 1975, when a civil war broke out in Lebanon. This internal conflict and continuing regional tensions have led more Lebanese to emigrate.

Cedars in the Pines brings together their remarkable stories in three exhibit sections. A brief description of each follows.

  • Journeys explores the many choices associated with immigration. The section includes the history of Lebanon, the reasons the emigrants left home, and the hardships of their long journeys. In the 1880s, thousands boarded steamships for America, where new arrivals faced more challenges in a foreign country. Exhibit items, such as an Arabic Bible that belonged to Side Mack, who immigrated at age 17, help tell these important stories. 

  • Belonging focuses on the challenges and opportunities of Lebanese immigrants who moved to North Carolina. Khater notes that the newcomers experienced culture shock, struggled against challenges and discrimination, and earned acceptance and success. The section highlights work, school and those who have given back to their communities. Visitors will see an elementary reader printed in Arabic; a Lebanese passport; items from Parker’s Restaurant, a family-run business in Rocky Mount; and other artifacts that recount these experiences.

  • Being explores what it means to be Lebanese in North Carolina, centering on home, religion and community. Khater explains that cultural practices like marriage traditions and food, music and religion, along with community organizations, played key roles in their efforts. Some traditions were changed to adapt to American culture, but others were strongly maintained.
“The Museum of History is honored to have been selected by the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies as the first venue for this outstanding exhibit on the Lebanese American history, heritage and culture in North Carolina which have added so much to our state,” emphasizes Ken Howard, Director of the N.C. Museum of History. 

Additional support for the exhibit comes from the N.C. Museum of History; N.C. State University, Department of History; Triangle Lebanese Association; N.C. Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; and the Digital Innovation Lab at UNC-Chapel Hill. Individual and foundation gifts from the Lebanese-American community in North Carolina have also helped fund the exhibit design and installation.

Cedars in the Pines
 represents one in a series of cultural projects undertaken by the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies to research, document, preserve and publicize the history of the Lebanese-American community in North Carolina. The project also includes a documentary film, an online digital archive, and a K-12 educational curriculum. For more information about the project, go to


Isabel and Ellis Zaytoun, ca. 1920s, of New Bern. 
Image courtesy of the Zaytoun family.

Joe and Amelia Salem, ca. 1940s, of New Bern. 
Image courtesy of the Salem family.

Raja Khalifah is a research scientist in 
Research Triangle Park. 
Image courtesy of the Khalifah family.

lebanese festival 2013
Teens dancing the dabkeh at the Lebanese Festival 2013.


The exhibit Cedars in the Pines will open Saturday, Feb. 22, at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. Take advantage of these freeprograms and a festival that complement the exhibit, on view through Aug. 31, 2014. Exhibit admission and weekend parking are free.

Cedars in the Pines
 on the Plaza

Saturday, March 29, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Celebrate Lebanese culture during this outdoor festival of dances, foods and crafts! All the fun takes place on Bicentennial Plaza, in front of the museum. Activities for all ages will include henna hand painting, Arabic calligraphy, a scavenger hunt with prizes, photo booths, and more. The Triangle Lebanese Association is co-sponsoring the event, and its nationally recognized Dabke group will perform traditional Lebanese dances.


History à la Carte: Strangers at Home: History of Arabs in America
Wednesday, April 9, noon-1 p.m.
Bring your lunch; beverages provided.

Akram Khater, PhD, Director of Middle East Studies Program and Director of Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies, N.C. State University

Arabs have lived in the United States since the 1870s, yet they continue to be seen as outsiders in their adopted home. Come learn more during this lunchtime program.


Music of the Carolinas: Music for Cedars in the Pines

Sunday, April 13, 3-4 p.m.

Lebanese musicians Naji Hilal, Basil Samara and Christopher Saleh will combine their musical talents in this unique program highlighting Lebanese culture in North Carolina. The performance is presented with PineCone, and support from the N.C. Museum of History Associates, Williams Mullen, and Harry’s Guitar Shop of Raleigh.               

Additional exhibit-related programs will take place in May and June, so check this website for details.

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