Introduction to the Routledge Classics Edition. List of Illustrations. Acknowledgements. Introduction Part 1: Something in the Air Part 2: White Negroes and Smoked Irish Part 3: The Transubstantiation of an Irish Revolutionary Part 4: They Swung their Picks Part 5: The Tumultuous Republic Part 6: From Protestant Ascendancy to White Republic
Noel Ignatiev (b. 1940) is best known for his call to abolish the white race. He was a co-founder and co-editor of the journal Race Traitor (an anthology from which won an American Book Award), and a co-founder of the New Abolitionist Society. He teaches history at the Massachusetts College of Art. American History
In a book he admits raises more questions than it answers, Ignatiev, a radical activist and editor of the journal Race Traitor, asserts that the Irish were initially discriminated against in the United States and "became white" by embracing racism, a concept Ignatiev (citing Daniel O'Connell) says they learned in the United States. Ignatiev targets the Irish because they were the largest immigrant group to compete with blacks for manual labor jobs. Does American labor history dismiss racism as an element in the workers' struggles? Did oppression in Ireland under the Penal Laws help to make the Irish oppressors in America, or did they learn racism only after reaching America? While many of the primary sources support Irish racism, fewer support Ignatiev's opinion on where it began. This book is more a springboard for discussion than a source of answers but is strongly recommended for that purpose.‘Robert C. Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. Information Svcs., N. Billerica, Mass.
'!from time to time a study comes along that truly can be called 'path breaking,' 'seminal,' 'essential,' a 'must read.' How the Irish Became White is such a study.' - John Bracey, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, University of Massachussetts, Amherst
In the first half of the 19th century, some three million Irish emigrated to America, trading a ruling elite of Anglo-Irish Anglicans for one of WASPs. The Irish immigrants were (self-evidently) not Anglo-Saxon; most were not Protestant; and, as far as many of the nativists were concerned, they weren't white, either. Just how, in the years surrounding the Civil War, the Irish evolved from an oppressed, unwelcome social class to become part of a white racial class is the focus of Harvard lecturer Ignatiev's well-researched, intriguing although haphazardly structured book. By mid-century, Irish voting solidarity gave them political power, a power augmented by the brute force of groups descended from the Molly Maguires. With help, the Irish pushed blacks out of the lower-class jobs and neighborhoods they had originally shared. And though many Irish had been oppressed by the Penal Laws, they opposed abolition‘even when Daniel O'Connell, ``the Liberator,'' threatened that Irish-Americans who countenanced slavery would be recognized ``as Irishmen no longer.'' The book's structure lacks cohesion: chapters zigzag chronologically and geographically, and Ignatiev's writing is thick with redundancies and overlong digressions. But for the careful reader, he offers much to think about and an important perspective on the American history of race and class. (Sept.)