Ameen Fares Rihani Papers and Audio Recordings


Ameen Fares Rihani Papers and Audio Recordings


Rihani, Ameen Fares, 1876-1940
American literature--Arab American authors
Letter writing, Arabic
Letter writing
Arabs--United States
Arabic literature


Biographical/Historical note

Ameen Fares Rihani was born on November 24, 1876, in Freike, Lebanon. One of six children, Rihani was raised in a Maronite family involved in silk manufacturing. Anticipating greater economic opportunity in the United States, Ameen’s father sent him to New York in 1888 with his uncle, Abdu, to start their own merchandising business. Rihani attended school where he learned English and read widely, largely influenced by the works of Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare, Washington Irving, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Walt Whitman, among others. He also continued to help his uncle run the family store. In 1895, Rihani joined a theater company, but later decided to attend law school at New York School of Law in 1897. Falling ill shortly after starting law school, Rihani returned to Lebanon to recover and refocused on literature. He taught English in exchange for lessons in Arabic and began translating Arabic poems into English.

In 1899, Rihani returned to New York where he joined the Poetry Society of America and the Pleiades Club, lectured in front of the Maronite Society of New York, contributed regularly to Al-Hoda, one of the most widely circulated Arabic-language newspapers in North America, and published his first two novels, A Treatise on the French Revolution and The Triple Alliance in the Animal Kingdom in Arabic. 

In the early 1900s, Rihani lived and worked in Freike, focusing mainly on his writing. A self-proclaimed ‘hermit,’ Rihani wrote essays, short stories, and plays, and was credited with being the first to write prose poetry in Arabic. In 1911, he published The Book of Khalid, regarded as his magnum opus, and returned to New York City. In 1916 he married Bertha Case, an American artist.

Rihani was heavily involved in literary associations and political movements and debates. He was part of the Mahjar literary movement, which included writers such as Khalil Gibran, Mikahil Naimy, Nasib Arida, and Abd al-Masih Haddad. Rihani joined The Pen League along with many of these men, which was the first Arabic-language literary society in North America. He also became involved in The Author’s Club, a British literary club, and held a long correspondence with George S. Seymour of The Bookfellows, a literary group based in Chicago.

He was an ardent advocate for Arab nationalism and a vocal critic of Zionism, traveling across the Middle East, Europe, and America to give lectures and speeches on these topics. Through letter-writing, he appealed to world leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt to advocate for educating Americans about Arab politics and culture. He held correspondence with the Institute of International Education, the International House, the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War, the Joint Peace Council, Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, and the Jewish Board of Deputies. A gifted orator, Rihani championed Arab causes across the world, and was fundamental in bridging the gap between Arab and American cultures. He died in Freike in 1940 at the age of 63.

Scope/Content note

The Rihani collection contains the personal correspondence, English and Arabic manuscripts, papers, notebooks, articles, press clippings, and other documents of Ameen Fares Rihani.

This collection contains over 25,000 pages of written material. Of these, approximately 5,000 are handwritten by Ameen Rihani himself with over 2,000 pages written by Ameen Rihani’s intellectual peers, business partners, friends, and family. The collection contains materials written primarily in Arabic, English, and French.

Note: Various documents have been altered by a third-party in order to censor or remove certain words or topics from Ameen Rihani's writings. 


Ameen Rihani Organization


Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies




Materials digitized in Freike, Lebanon by Walid Mourad and his team through a collaboration between the Khayrallah Center, the Ameen Rihani Organization, and the Ameen Rihani Museum.
Processed by Khayrallah Center staff. Collection Guide content contributed by Claire A. Kempa and Amanda Forbes.
Collection Guide updated by Laura Lethers, 2024 May.


The donor retains full ownership of any copyright and rights currently controlled. Nonexclusive right to authorize uses of these materials for non-commercial research, scholarly, or other educational purposes are granted to Khayrallah Center pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. Usage of the materials for these purposes must be fully credited with the source. The user assumes full responsibility for any use of the materials.

These materials are digital copies of an original resource held by another institution. The KCLDS Archive often works with other institutions to make digital materials available online to the public. KCLDS is not able to grant permission to use or reproduce these materials. The KCLDS Archive strongly encourages users to contact the holding institution for permission to use or reproduce materials from their holdings.




KC 0034


Alsutany, Evelyn and Ella Shohta. Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora. University of Michigan Press, 2013.

Hajj, Maya El. “Translation, Retranslation and Recreation in the Literary Field.” Journal of Language Teaching and Research 10, no. 5 (2019): 914-925.

Bushrui, Suheil Badi. “Arab American Cultural Relations in the 20th Century: The Thought and Works of Ameen Rihani with Special Reference to his Writings in English,” Fifth Annual Phillips Lecture, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Dec. 12, 1990 (unpublished).

Ghareed, Edmund and Jenab Tutunji. “Arab American Writers, the Mahjar Press, and the Palestine Issue.” Arab Studies Quarterly 38, no. 1 (2016): 418-442.

“Ameen Rihani Biography.” The Ameen Rihani Organization, 2016.

“Khayrallah Center to Digitize Rihani Papers.” Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, 2017.

Collection Tree

This collection is a part of a larger collection that has been divided into more specific collections.