CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – “From India to America: Routes of the Roma” will be the topic March 19 at the NCSML when historian Ian Hancock speaks about the history of the Romani people. The free public lecture begins at 7:00 p.m.

Ian HancockA foremost scholar of Romani history and human rights issues, Hancock is professor emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin. He has long been engaged in fighting for the rights of Romani people, and his talk will cover the academic effort to recover a lost history, the roots of “Romaphobia,” the origin of the literary/fictional term “Gypsy,” efforts to standardize the Romani language, the Holocaust, slavery and the current socio-political situation for Roma.

Hancock’s lecture coincides with an exhibit at the NCSML of photography by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert of the Roma people of Sintesti, Romania. The photos cover the period 1990-2006; the exhibit ends May 27.

The label “Gypsies,” which Hancock calls “misapplied,” has obscured the real identity of the Romani people, who number about 14 million worldwide. Hancock says their literary image is so well-entrenched that it hides the presence of the more than 1 million Roma here in North America.

Hancock will provide the current understanding of the Roma’s origin, and why and how they left their Indian homeland a thousand years ago and reached the West.  He will show how the Hungarian-Slovak Roma left the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 19th century and came to America.  He also will explain the origin of the stereotypical term “Gypsy” and the Romani effort to organize politically.

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