Without Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko the American Revolutionary War might have been lost, and if Thomas Jefferson had heeded his advice, the Civil War might never have occurred. These historical conjectures have their basis in two little known facts about the Polish military engineer: Kościuszko played a decisive role in the Revolutionary War as a colonel in the Continental Army by designing and overseeing the construction of state-of-the-art fortifications, including those at West Point, and in recognition of his services the Continental Congress promoted him to brigadier general. He also appointed his friend Thomas Jefferson as the executor of his estate and instructed that it be used to buy the freedom of black slaves (including Jefferson’s) and to educate and train them for independent life and work.
Jefferson wrote that Kościuszko “is as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known.” There is little doubt that the contributions of Kościuszko–as well as his fellow Pole, Casimir Pulaski–were instrumental in the establishment of an independent United States of America, but there is no way of knowing what the effect on the country would have been had slavery been abolished and African Americans given full civil rights early in the establishment of the nation.
UNESCO has designated 2017 as the Year of Kościuszko in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of his death. To mark this occasion the Polish Museum of America in Chicago will open the “Kościuszko Bicentennial Exhibit” on October 15 and feature it through Pulaski Day in 2018. The museum’s collection of priceless Kościuszko artifacts and documents will be on display. In addition, 50 prints of Kościuszko portraits that have been conserved in Poland will be exhibited.
In keeping with its mission of better representation of Polish history and culture in the libraries of America, the Polish American Librarians Association is a sponsor of the Kościuszko exhibit, but more sponsors are needed. Visit the websites of the Polish Museum of America and the Kościuszko Foundation for complete information about the Year of Kościuszko .