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Don Binkowski Papers

 Collection
Identifier: LP000796
This collection is mainly comprised of research collected by Binkowski in the pursuit of publication on various subjects, from Polish-American labor leaders to all subjects relating to Poles and Polish-American life. The bulk of the collection consists of subject files: correspondence, clippings, book excerpts, and photographic copies of primary documents. Binkowski’s papers collected during his tenure as a public servant in Warren, MI, as well as personal papers relating to his life and travel, are included in Series III.

Important Subjects: Communism Detroit (Mich)—Politics and Government Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)—Poland Labor leaders—United States Labor unions—United States Poland—Ethnic Relations Poland—History Polish Americans—Ethnic Identity Polish Americans—Michigan—Detroit—History Polish Americans—Politics and Government Polish Government in Exile Polish people—United States—Societies, etc. Socialism

Important Names: Falkowski, Edward Gebert. B.K. Krzycki, Leo Nowak, Cass Peter Nowak, Stanley Reuther, Victor, Shenkar, George Zuk, Mary
Series Description: Series I: Polish American Labor History (predominantly 1930s-1950s)

Subseries A: Subject Files Correspondence, clippings, and other materials relating to Polish labor leaders and labor unions, as well as materials on communism and socialism that enhance the understanding of Poles and the labor movement. The bulk of the research relates to three individuals:

Edward Falkowski – A journalist, writer, and trade-unionist involved in the communist movement in the 1920s-1940s. Born in 1901 in Pennsylvania, Falkowski worked in the coal mines as a teen, later joining the United Mine Workers. He attended Brookwood Labor College, and then traveled to Germany and the Soviet Union after graduation. During his years abroad, Falkowski worked as a journalist for the Moscow News (an English language paper). He returned to the United States in 1937, and in the mid-1940s, at the urging of Leo Krzycki, helped organize and worked for the American Slav Congress.

B.K. Gebert – Born Boleslaw Konstantine Gebert in Poland in 1895. As a teenager, he moved to the United States and worked in a Coal Mine in Pennsylvania, soon thereafter becoming a socialist. Gebert also became active in the Communist Party. He was in Detroit, MI by 1920, and the editor of Glosu Robotniczego (Worker’s Voice), later the Trybuny Robotniczej (Worker’s Tribune), which became Glos Ludowy (People’s Voice) in 1926. Gebert worked in three fields of labor – mines, steel, and auto workers. Gebert became president of International Workers Order’s (IWO) Polonia Society and vice-president of the IWO in 1944. He also helped to establish the American Slav Congress and install Leo Krzycki as president. Returning to Poland, Gebert became secretary of the CRZZ, a Polish trades union group. Later, he became deputy secretary general of the World Federation of Trade Unions as a representative of Polish trade unions. From 1949-50, Gebert was secretary of the Swiatowej Rady Pokoju (Trade Union Council) and from 1950-57, the editor of Glosu Pracy. Gebert then served as Poland’s ambassador to Turkey from 1960-67.

Leo Krzycki - Born in Milwaukee in 1881, Krzycki dedicated his life to union organizing, the Socialist Party, and the American Slav Congress (and related activities on behalf of the USSR). He began his organizing career at the age of seventeen, and became a founder and vice president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. By 1900 he was an active Socialist, and was elected a Milwaukee alderman on the Socialist ticket. Although he was a Socialist party chairman and executive committee member in the 1930s, Krzycki was compelled to leave the party in 1936 in a dispute over labor union support for Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1942, he became president of the American Slav Congress, and in 1944 he was elected chairman of the American Polish Labor Council. Krzycki was awarded the Polonia Restituta medal, Poland’s highest award in 1945. He retired from public life in 1950. Included in the collection is Binkowski’s correspondence with Leo Krzycki’s sons, Eugene and Victor. Subseries B: Communism, Socialism, and Labor Materials Clippings, articles, and excerpts on issues relating to communism, socialism, and labor.

Subseries C: Freedom of Information & Privacy Act (FOIPA) Files Declassified government documents released under the Freedom of Information & Privacy Act. These papers document the scrutiny of Polish leaders by the U.S. government in order to identify “Un-American” activities, which could lead to deportation or jail. Series II: Polish American History, Interests and Studies (predominantly 1940s-1980s) Series II is comprised of subject files pertaining to information Judge Binkowski collected on Polish American history, interests, and study. Most files contain a variety of sources, including clippings, book excerpts, and correspondence.

Series III: Personal Papers Subseries A: Law & Order (predominantly 1960s-1980s) Correspondence, clippings, and campaign material documenting Binkowski’s time as both an attorney, and in public service as a councilman, Con-Con delegate, and district court judge.

Subseries B: Biographical and Other Interests (Biographical materials predominantly 1940s-1980s; Norris materials predominantly 1800s) School records, genealogical records, travel correspondence, and interests not related to Binkowski’s Polish American heritage. Materials include his research on Norris, MI and his current hometown of Warren, MI.

Dates

  • 1920 - 2008
  • Majority of material found within 1940 - 1980

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials in English, Polish, and Russian.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

3 library books require librarian's approval for use.
Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.

Extent

47 Linear Feet (47 SB)

Abstract

Don Binkowski spent his career serving the people of Michigan as a Warren councilman, delegate of the Michigan Constitutional Convention, and judge in the 37th District Court. Privately, Binkowski, a passionate historian, copiously researched and wrote extensively on Polish and Polish-American history and interests, and on North Detroit. This collection is mainly comprised of Binkowski’s research collected in the pursuit of publication, specifically his three books: Col. P.W. Norris – Yellowstone’s Greatest, Poles Together: Leo Krzycki and Polish Americans in the American Labor Movement, and Leo Krzycki and the Detroit Left. Papers that document Binkowski’s career in public service are also included.

History

Don Binkowski was born to a lower middle class family in the heart of Detroit’s Polish Ghetto in 1929. After graduating from Detroit’s Pershing High School, he attended the University of Michigan from 1947 to 1951 and then went to work for the Social Security Administration in Detroit. While working for the Social Security Administration, Binkowski attended the University of Detroit Law School at night, until joining the U.S. Army in 1953. A Korean War veteran, Binkowski was discharged from the army after 22 months, at which time he reentered school at Wayne State University and received his law degree in 1956.

Binkowski’s early career included assistant attorney general, attorney for the Friend of the Court in Wayne County, and a stint on the state labor mediation board in Detroit. Active in the Democratic Party, Binkowski was elected as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) in 1961, representing the east side of Detroit and Hamtramck. Later, Binkowski settled in Warren, MI and opened a law office.

Continuing with politics, Binkowski became a Warren Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem from 1965 to 1968. In 1969, he was elected as a judge in the 37th District Court. Binkowski retired from the bench in 1987.

With a lifelong passion for history, Binkowski researched and collected mass amounts of information on North Detroit, and Polish and Polish-American interests. He has used this research to write extensively and has been published in journals and newspapers. Additionally, Binkowski authored three books. The first, Col. P.W. Norris – Yellowstone’s Greatest Superintendent (1995), described the Village of Norris, where the Binkowskis were raised. His next two books were on Poles in the American Labor movement: Poles Together: Leo Krzycki and Polish Americans in the American Labor Movement (Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2001) and Leo Krzycki and the Detroit Left (Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2001)

Married to Christina Swieczkowski, Binkowski has three children from a previous marriage: Donna Elder, Beth Ann Etzel, and Alex Binkowski.

Arrangement

Arranged in three series – Series I (Boxes 1-18), Series II (Boxes 19-38), and Series III (Boxes 39-47). Folders are arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series I: Polish American Labor History is further divided into three subseries: Subseries A: Subject Files; Subseries B: Communism, Socialism, and Labor Materials; Subseries C: Freedom of Information & Privacy Act Files.

Series III: Personal Papers is further divided into two subseries: Subseries A: Law & Order; Subseries B: Biographical and Other Interests.

Acquisition

The Don Binkowski papers were first deposited at the Reuther Library in September 1976, with subsequent deposits between 1986 and 2008.

Transfers

Photographs and oversized items such as posters and banners, and audio/video tapes were transferred to the Reuther’s Audiovisual Department. Books on Polish history and issues, communism, socialism, and labor issues were transferred to the Reuther’s Library Department. Inventory at end of guide.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Robbie Terman on August 19, 2008.
Title
Guide to the Don Binkowski Papers
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Robbie Terman.
Date
2008-08-19
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA