How the Irish became White

Ignatiev, Noel
Publisher:  Routledge, New York
Year Published:  1995
Pages:  233pp   ISBN:  9780415913843
Library of Congress Number:  E184.I6I36 1995   Dewey:  305.891/62073
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX15923

The Irish came to America in the eighteenth century, fleeing a homeland under foreign occupation and a caste system that regarded them as the lowest form of humanity. In the new country – a land of opportunity – they found a very different form of social hierarchy, one that was based on the colour of a person’s skin. Noel Ignatiev tells the story of how the oppressed became the oppressors; how the new Irish immigrants achieved acceptance among an initially hostile population only by proving that they could be more brutal in their oppression of African Americans than the nativists.

How The Irish Became White tells the story of how the Irish immigrant went from racially Oppressed to racial Oppressor, an American Story most of us haven't wanted to hear before. Utilizing newspaper chronicles, memoirs, biographies, and official accounts, Noel Ignatiev traces the tattered history of Irish and African-American relations, revealing how the Irish in America used unions, the Catholic Church and the Democratic party to help gain and secure their newly found place in the White Republic. How The Irish Became White opens with the reactions of Irish America to the 1841 appeal made to them by Daniel O'Connell, "The Liberator," to join with anti-slavery forces in the new country. It then reviews the status of Catholics in Ireland and some of their ambiguous contacts with American race patterns after emigration. Ignatiev carefully explores and challenges the Irish tradition of labor protest and the Irish role in the wave of anti-Negro violencethat swept the country in the 1830s and 1840s. In addition, How The Irish Became Whiteprovides a provocative recounting of the roles of northeastern urban politicians in the Irish triumph over nativism, which allowed for their entry into the "white race." This is the first book to focus not on how the Irish were assimilated but how they were assimilated as "whites." Ignatiev seeks out the roots of the well-known tension between Irish and African-Americans, and draws the connection between the embracing of white supremacy by the Irish and their "success" in America. How The Irish Became White convincingly explodes a number of the most powerful myths surrounding race in our society.

Table of Contents

1. Something in the Air
2. White Negroes and Smoked Irish
3. The Transubstantiation of an Irish Revolutionary
4. They Swung Their Picks
5. The Tumultuous Republic
6. From Protestant Ascendancy to White Republic
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