People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Irish Americans Part 3

About the Irish Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Irish-Americans and more.


Despite their own history of oppression, the Irish militantly opposed the freeing of slaves in the years preceding the Civil War. Irish workers feared that freed slaves would move north to compete for their jobs. During antidraft riots in 1863, many indigent Irish were among the angry workers who roamed the streets of New York, shooting and lynching blacks for three days until they were finally beaten back by troops rushed north from the Battle of Gettysburg.

Unique among immigrant groups, the Irish won power and acceptance in American society primarily through politics. When they arrived in the U.S. the Irish already spoke English and were familiar with the form, if not the substance and benefits, of representative government. From the 1850s, the sheer size of the immigrant vote made the Irish a vital factor in elections, but it was not until the 1880s that the Irish began to take control of the embryonic big-city political machines, like New York's Tammany Hall.

In a society oblivious, when not openly hostile, to the fate of its immigrants and poor, political clubs provided the Irish with actual power, an outlet for personal ambitions, and a defense against bigotry. A political club was also a focus of community life in an Irish neighborhood, second only to the Church. Local politicians provided jobs for the unemployed, relief for widows and orphans, food for the hungry, and a host of personalized social services that were not supplied by the government until after the New Deal in the 1930s.

Irish control of city halls turned police and fire departments into virtual Irish enclaves and brought no little prosperity to battalions of Irish contractors as well. Especially after W.W. II, Irish Americans moved with few impediments into the managerial class in industry, government, and the professions. The Irish are today one of the most evenly distributed ethnic groups in the U.S. in terms of economic and social position.

Famous Irish Americans: Presidents Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, and John F. Kennedy, who was the first Irish Catholic president; political boss Richard Daley, who was mayor of Chicago for over two decades; red-baiting U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy; chairman of the American Communist party Elizabeth Gurley Flynn; spokesperson for political conservatism William F. Buckley, Jr.; Senator Daniel P. Moynihan; labor leader George Many; writers Eugene O'Neill, James. T. Farrell, John O'Hara, Flannery O'Connor, and Mary McCarthy; film director John Ford; actors James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, and Maureen O'Hara; composers George M. Cohan and Victor Herbert.

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