The Immigration and Ethnic History Society was founded in 1965 as the Immigration History Group. It was renamed the Immigration History Society in 1972, and was subsequently chartered as a non-profit organization in Minnesota. In 1998, the Society, which had traditionally dealt with matters of ethnicity as well as immigration, changed its name to the Immigration and Ethnic History Society.
The Society’s stated purpose is to promote the study of the history of immigration to the United States and Canada from all parts of the world, including studies of the background of emigration in the countries of origin; to promote the study of ethnic groups in the United States, including regional groups, native Americans and forced immigrants; to promote understanding of the processes of acculturation and of conflict; to furnish through the Immigration and Ethnic History Newsletter information as to research, organizations, meetings and publications in the field of immigrant history; to help organize sessions on immigration and ethnicity at meetings of learned societies; and generally to serve the field of immigration-ethnic history with special reference to professional scholarship.
The Society has over 500 members, approximately evenly divided between individuals, mostly academic scholars, and institutions, mostly libraries and research institutions.
The Society publishes the Journal of American Ethnic History, which appears quarterly and has been published since 1981, and its Newsletter, published twice yearly since 1968. It holds an annual meeting and dinner in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians. It organizes and sponsors sessions on immigration and ethnic subjects at various academic conferences. It also sponsors awards for outstanding books and articles and an award to encourage promising dissertation research. The Society is a member of the Association of North American Immigration Institutions (ANAII).