Why Was There Conflict Between Irish and African Americans?


Collage of well-known Irish people

Image via Wikipedia

I wanted to use the Daniel O’Connell post to continue with this.  What I am writing here is by no means scholarly.

On my old blog Irish vs. Blacks was one of the biggest hits.  Therefore, I try and cover it.

O’Connell chastised Irish immigrants in the United States for being racist and supporting slavery.  Why would a people, who had been mistreated at home do it to someone else in another country?

The Irish were coming to the United States at the bottom of the scale.  Just to give an example, the Irish who were brought to New Orleans were brought there to do things like dig canals in bayous in sub-tropical heat, with all the diseases and nasty critters South Louisiana has.  From a historical perspective, you may ask, “Why weren’t slaves used?”  As crude as this sounds, slaves were property.  you didn’t care if the Irish immigrant died, but a slave was a major investment at the time.

Irish immigrants feared that free African-Americans would take their jobs if slavery ended.  Irish immigrants fought for both sides in the American Civil War.  For later history, read Dennis Lehane‘s novel about the 1919 Boston Police Strike.  Boston‘s busing crisis in the ’70′s is an entire dissertation in itself.

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About tucsonmike

I am originally from Brooklyn, New York and now live in Tucson, Arizona. I have discovered a passion for writing. I have five books out now, with a sixth on the way. Take a look @ my book list: The Search for Livingstone An Affair of the Heart The Search for Otzi Griffith Justice in Space. Moriarty The Life and Times of a Criminal Genius Available now on Smashwords - Amazon and Barnes and Noble As to not bore my public with just "Buy my book," I am also interested in baseball, the outdoors, art, architecture, technology, the human mind and DNA. I learned Ashkenazi Jews, of which I am one, have to lowest rate of Alzheimer's in the world. Therefore, I treat my brain as a muscle needing a workout. I enjoy good food, flirtation, beautiful women (I am happily married for thirty years), so just flirting ;) I was considered autistic when I was young, trying to figure out if I have a mild form of Aspergers and learning from that. That is for future posts. You can also see I love history. Enjoy my sarcastic silly look at the world, and making History more interesting than a textbook.
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12 Responses to Why Was There Conflict Between Irish and African Americans?

  1. Very very Interesting. Where did you learn that about the Irish worrying that freed slaves might take their jobs? Very very interesting!

  2. Soni Cido says:

    Thank you for posting this Michael! I have always thought that someone should write the truth about Irish Slavery. It has been over looked as though African-Americans are the only ones who were used. And the Chinese. What about them?

    • tucsonmike says:

      Well I haven’t looked yet. I do know of one book called When the Irish Became White. As far as scholarly stuff I would have to look deeper.

  3. Soni Cido says:

    That sounds cool! I’ll look for it. Thanks!

    • tucsonmike says:

      If you get it, let me know what you think. The authors last name is Ignatieff.

      • Soni Cido says:

        Here is an interesting quote from a synopsis (by, Art McDonald, PhD) that I stumbled upon today:
        Irish and Africans Americans had lots in common and lots of contact during this period; they lived side by side and shared work spaces. In the early years of immigration the poor Irish and blacks were thrown together, very much part of the same class competing for the same jobs. In the census of 1850, the term mulatto appears for the first time due primarily to inter-marriage between Irish and African Americans. The Irish were often referred to as “Negroes turned inside out and Negroes as smoked Irish.” A famous quip of the time attributed to a black man went something like this: “My master is a great tyrant, he treats me like a common Irishman.”

      • Soni Cido says:

        “How the Irish Became White”– Art McDonald– PhD

  4. Hi, there! I’m a fellow campaigner and dropped by your blog to say hello and introduce myself. This is interesting stuff! Very glad to meet you.

    Nadine Galinsky Feldman

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