Saturday, March 18, 2017

When America Despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis


This is the story of the prejudice encountered by refugees from Ireland’s Great Hunger and how those Irish exiles persevered to become part of the American mainstream.

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | UK Desk
Source/Credit: History.com
By Christopher Klein | March 16, 2017

These days it’s not just the 32 million Americans—10 percent of the country’s population—with predominantly Irish roots who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Even those without Celtic blood now don green clothes and hoist pints of Guinness on March 17 to be Irish for a day.

There was a time, however, when the thought of Americans honoring all things Irish was unimaginable. This is the story of the prejudice encountered by refugees from Ireland’s Great Hunger and how those Irish exiles persevered to become part of the American mainstream.

The refugees seeking haven in America were poor and disease-ridden. They threatened to take jobs away from Americans and strain welfare budgets. They practiced an alien religion and pledged allegiance to a foreign leader. They were bringing with them crime. They were accused of being rapists. And, worst of all, these undesirables were Irish.

Fleeing a shipwreck of an island, nearly 2 million refugees from Ireland crossed the Atlantic to the United States in the dismal wake of the Great Hunger.

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