Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America, 2013

Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America, 2013

Author(s): Vivek Bald
  • Type: Book
  • Researcher: Other Researchers
  • Timeline: 2010s
  • Affiliation: Faculty

About the Book

Nineteenth-century Muslim peddlers arrived at Ellis Island, bags heavy with embroidered silks from their villages in Bengal. Demand for “Oriental goods” took these migrants on a curious path, from New Jersey’s boardwalks into the segregated South. Bald’s history reveals cross-racial affinities below the surface of early twentieth-century America.


“Vivek Bald’s extraordinary account persuasively places these first Bengali migrants at the heart of our multiracial American experience. A virtuoso act of recovery.”
—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her

About the Author

Vivek Bald is Associate Professor of Writing and Digital Media at MIT. A scholar, writer, and documentary filmmaker, his work focuses on histories of migration and diaspora, particularly from the South Asian subcontinent. Bald is currently working on a transmedia project aimed at recovering the histories of peddlers and steamship workers from British colonial India who came to the United States under the shadows of anti-Asian immigration laws and settled within U.S. communities of color in the early 20th century. The project consists of the Bengali Harlem book as well as a documentary film, “In Search of Bengali Harlem,” (currently in production), and a digital oral history website in development at

Bald, Vivek. Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.