|HISTORY OF THE POLISH AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION
Compiled by John J. Bukowczyk,
Professor of History, Wayne State University
With the assistance of the Polish Government-in-Exile and the
support of several Americans and American Poles, on May 15,1942 a
group of Polish émigré scholars who had fled the Nazi onslaught
founded the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America (PIASA)
in New York City. According to historian and PIASA president Jan
Kucharzewski, the new Polish institute vowed "to assemble, preserve,
and harness for posterity the values of a nation" and "to represent
Polish thought in the world." PIASA was organized into four
"Scholarly Sections," including a section devoted to the "Historical
and Political Sciences," headed up by the renowned Polish émigré
historian, Oskar Halecki.
At the first meeting of the latter, on
September 11, 1942, Halecki proposed creating "a special Committee
for the study of the history of Poles in the United States" and, once
approved, enticed Miecislaus Haiman of the Polish Museum in Chicago
to head it. Open to "all students of Polish immigrant," without
regard to their ethnic background, and headquartered at the Polish
Museum in Chicago, the new Commission on Research on Polish
Immigration held its first conference and meeting December 29-30,
1943, in New York City. At is second meeting, held at Orchard Lake
Seminary in Michigan in October 1944, the organization changed its
name to the Polish-American Historical Commission and that year began
to publish its own scholarly journal, "Polish-American Studies".
June of 1947, both the organization and journal dropped the hyphen
from their names, and the Commission formally joined both the
American Historical Association (AHA) and the Catholic Historical Association.
After the death of Miecislaus Haiman, in January 1949, leadership of
the organization increasingly shifted to American-born Poles,
prominent among whom were nuns and priests, the most active of whom
was Rev. Joseph Swastek, who served as president of the organization
and its long-time journal editor. In that year, the Commission
also changed its name to the Polish American Historical Association
(PAHA). Reflective of the growing role of Polish-American religious
in PAHA affairs, in 1950 the organization moved its headquarters to
St. Mary's College in Orchard Lake, Michigan.
The role of
Polish-American religious in the life of PAHA remained prominent
through the long tenure of service of Rev. M. J. Madaj, a past
president and long-time executive secretary. Rev. Madaj--together
with a few other lay officers like Eugene Kusielewicz--spearheaded
the modernization and professionalization of PAHA, including the
creation of local chapters (now defunct), a 1965 resolution to hold
PAHA annual meetings in concert with the annual meeting of the
American Historical Association, and the creation in 1965 of an
annual scholarly award, the Haiman Award (the first of many that the
organization would establish in future years).
In 1969, Madaj
oversaw the movement of PAHA headquarters from Orchard Lake to St.
Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, and shortly
thereafter back to the Polish Museum in Chicago. On October 16,
1972, PAHA was incorporated in Illinois as a 501(c)(3)
not-for-profit organization, finally ending its formal connections to
PIASA, and in 1975 the group was accepted as an affiliate society of
the American Historical Association. In 1980, PAHA became a
contributor to the AHA's National Coordinating Committee for the
Promotion of History (NCC).
During these years, increasing professionalization of PAHA was
accompanied by increasing secularization, as a generation of
university-educated Polish-American Ph.D.s. took up service as PAHA
officers and council members and in editorial roles for the
journal. By the mid-1980s, both the organization and journal had
become, for all intents and purposes, lay professional projects.
1981, the organization conferred its first annual Halecki (best book)
Prize and first annual Swastek Award (best article published in
Polish American Studies); subsequently, the organization created the
Stanley A. Kulczycki Prize (for graduate and post-doctoral research
in Polish-American studies), a Distinguished Service Award, a Civic
Achievement Award, a Creative Arts Award, the Amicus Poloniae Award,
and, most recently, a Graduate Research paper award. In 1998, PAHA's
headquarters returned to St. Mary's College at the Orchard Lake
Schools campus in Orchard Lake, Michigan, and in 2004 found a
permanent home at Central Connecticut State College in New Britain,
Connecticut, under the sponsorship of the CCSU Polish Studies Program
and the Polish Chair there (named after the late CCSU professor and
past PAHA president Stanislaus A. Blejwas).
Since its founding in 1942, PAHA has become a modern, secular, interdisciplinary
academic and professional organization with a diverse, international
membership of individuals and institutions. As of this writing, in
2008, PAHA sponsors an annual conference, held in conjunction with
the annual meeting of the American Historical Association; awards
about a dozen annual scholarly, publication, and civic prizes and
awards; publishes a semi-annual journal, Polish American Studies, and
a semi-annual newsletter; and is a funder of the Ohio University
Press Polish and "Polish-American Studies" Series and, on an ad hoc
basis, a sponsor of various other publication and scholarly projects,
conferences, and public programs. In 2008, Polish American Studies
joined the History Cooperative and also accepted an invitation to
participate in the JSTOR archival project.
Source: Information for this brief history was drawn from John J.
Bukowczyk, "Harness for Posterity the Values of a Nation'--Fifty
Years of the Polish American Historical Association and Polish
American Studies," Polish American Studies 50, no. 2 (Autumn 1993):
5-99; and Anna D. Jaroszyńska-Kirchmann, "The Polish American
Historical Association: Looking Back, Looking Forward," Polish American Studies
61, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 57-76. Artwork by Polish American artist Julian Stanczak: Structural Cobalt, Structural Cadmium Yellow,
Exchanging Light-A, Structural Cadmium Red, from a 2012 series of paintings.