Alexander Kitroeff. The History of AHEPA 1922-2022: A Century of Service. Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press. 2023. Pp. 395 (including images & photographs). Paper $39.95.

This volume is a welcome contribution to the study of the Hellenic diaspora and of the Greek American community, in particular. As Alexander Kitroeff notes, the last history of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) was George Leber’s The History of the Order of AHEPA that was authored in 1972. Hence, Kitroeff’s book offers an important update and an extension of the organization’s history.

As the author writes, the book “does not claim to be a comprehensive record” but, instead, introduces “AHEPA to the Greek American community, and to a wider readership in Greece and the diaspora” (10). Specifically, the volume acknowledges the organization’s extensive range of programs and initiatives in athletics, education, housing, public health, public policy, and more. It is divided into four parts. Part I covers the 1922-1945 era and focuses on the Americanization campaigns initiated by AHEPA as well as the organization’s broader efforts to align itself and the Greek American community with US public policy objectives during that period. Part II covers the 1945-1972 era and focuses extensively on the organization’s efforts on the post-World War II reconstruction of Greece, its renewed focus on education, and the organization’s increasingly important and growing role as a lobby for Greece and Cyprus. Special attention is paid also to the organization’s stance during Greece’s 1967-1974 dictatorship. Part III discusses the 1973-1999 era, with an even greater focus on the organization’s role as a lobby as well as its bridge-building efforts between post-1974 Greece and the United States. Lastly, Part IV of the volume covers the post-2000 period, focusing on the organization’s continuing role in strengthening Greece-US ties.

As the volume illustrates, AHEPA was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1922. The organization’s original objectives were: (a) “to advance and promote pure and undefiled Americanism among the Greeks in the US”; (b) “to educate Greeks in matters of democracy”; (c) “to instill the deepest sense of loyalty to the US”; and (d) “to promote fraternal sociability [and] practice benevolent aid among this nationality” (20-21). Organizationally, AHEPA adopted the lodge (chapter) model that was inspired by freemasonic temples and well-known in the United States at the time. Of special importance is the fact that AHEPA was initially conceived as a vehicle to fight racism and xenophobia (21) through the deployment of strategies aimed to prove Greek Americans as model Americans. A central feature of AHEPA’s approach was to avoid specific mention of “Greece,” a term that was replaced by “Hellas” and “Hellenic” (and thus associated with Ancient Greece) (35). Hence, the organization was instrumental in constructing the so-called “Hellenic” model or blueprint of Greek American identity. According to this model, emphasis is placed on ancient Greek heritage and on the fact that Greek Americans are carriers of that heritage; hence, they share the values of US democracy—values inspired by the ancient Greek city-state model (for a discussion, see Roudometof and Karpathakis 2002).

This objective was manifested in pronouncements, such as “Democracy is ingrained in the Greek” (50), which were clearly aimed at distinguishing Greeks from other people in the Balkans and to make connections with US conceptions of democratic citizenship. However, the organization had its work cut out for it, as evidenced by the fact that a 1931 congressional report mentioned that “the Greek element in America is criminally inclined” (57). Indeed, AHEPA played an important role in successfully combating such anti-Greek (and broadly anti-immigrant) sentiments, as well as rehabilitating the community’s image in the eyes of the broader public. Of crucial significance for this project’s success was the extensive participation of Greek Americans in World War II as well as the accolades Greece received for its fight with the Allies against the Axis powers.

In Part II of the book, AHEPA’s role in the post-Civil War reconstruction of Greece is extensively highlighted (89-108). This role was also expressed through the endorsement of a staunch anti-communist stance, which, of course, complemented US policy at the time. The post-1945 era also inaugurated the organization’s role in supporting Greek Cypriots in their struggle for union with Greece in the 1950s (97, 115) as well as their later struggle against Turkey’s invasion of the island in 1974. This notwithstanding, some less than bright moments in the organization’s post-World War II history are also discussed: these include the controversy regarding the post-World War II adoption of Greek children by US families (122) and the well-known fact that AHEPA was not opposed to the 1967-1974 dictatorship in large part because it viewed what was happening in Greece within the context of the Cold War—one between a capitalist West and communist East. Finally, while the organization’s post-1974 record is better-known to the broader Greek audience, AHEPA’s role in the 2004 Athens Olympics is worth mentioning as are a variety of financial and infrastructural investments that the organization has continued to make in twenty-first century Greece.

Of crucial importance is the fact that AHEPA’s organizational model was exported beyond US borders (most notably into Canada) and hence has played a significant role in organizing the Greek diaspora more generally. As the author mentions, the Greek state’s efforts in the 1990s to create the Secretariat General of the Hellenic Diaspora and, thus, to be more engaged with the diaspora was met with skepticism by AHEPA members. Once it became clear that the Greek state intended to supersede diasporic organizations, its effort lacked support and was later abandoned. The lesson is clear: the Greek state must work collaboratively with the diaspora and not attempt to superimpose centralized control over the activities of various groups, including the multitude of affiliated and branch groups that operate under AHEPA’s umbrella but are largely autonomous.

In terms of shortcomings, there are numerous topics in the book that are only briefly mentioned and remain insufficiently explored. For example, issues of gender equity, in-depth investigations of specific instances of philanthropic activities, and the impact of lobbying are among the issues worthy of further study. Given the paucity of literature addressing the organization’s activities, however, Kitroeff has performed an important task by listing these activities. Moreover, because this volume was produced with the assistance of AHEPA, the chronological history that is depicted may be viewed as partly reflecting the association’s self-image. This is a legitimate criticism of the work; but it is also a challenge—one that should encourage its critics to produce divergent, or alternative, accounts.

Such shortcomings notwithstanding, the volume provides readers with a wealth of factual and substantive information as well as several subthemes and topics that are only briefly mentioned, including the changing role of gender and youth in the organization’s outreach; the extent to which influential individuals within the organization directed AHEPA’s projects in Greece towards their original hometowns or regions; the mechanisms through which AHEPA affected the broader image of Greek Americans in US society; and more. Kitroeff’s inability to address such subtopics is perhaps inevitable given the nature of the book which, as Kitroeff himself admits, is a synopsis rather than a comprehensive account (10). Thus, historians of the diaspora should carefully review the book as they attempt to discern which topics deserve further study. For example, it could be interesting to study how AHEPA’s policies and objectives have changed over time from the organization’s initial concern of protecting Greek immigrants from racism to its more contemporary lobbying efforts and philanthropic activities undertaken in Greece. It would also be interesting to relate this shift to the widely known and celebrated upward social mobility of Greek Americans. Doing so could shed further light on the organization’s policy objectives and the ways its policies have shifted over the course of the last one hundred years. Overall, this is a valuable contribution to the history of Greek Americans. Future historians should consult its pages to determine topics of importance that need further study.

Victor Roudometof
University of Cyprus

March 21, 2024

Victor Roudometof is an associate professor at the University of Cyprus and Director of the Historical and Literary Archives of Kavala. His main research interests include culture, religion (Orthodox Christianity), globalization, and the study of the Hellenic Diaspora. He is the author of several monographs and edited volumes. His latest book is the Handbook of Culture and Glocalization, coedited with Ugo Dessi (Elgar 2022). For more information, see

Works Cited

Roudometof, Victor and Anna Karpathakis. 2002. “Greek Americans and Transnationalism: Religion, Class, and Community.” Communities Across Borders: New Immigrants and Transnational Cultures, edited by P. Kennedy and V. Roudometof, 41–54. London: Routledge.