Front Porch: The Irish

Immigrants preparing to board a U.S.-bound ocean liner, Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland, ca. 1903. Courtesy of the Collections of the Library of Congress.

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Front Porch: The Irish

by Harry L. Watson
Southern Cultures, Vol. 17, No. 1: The Irish

"The authors in this special issue on Ireland and the South argue that the Irish left an outsized imprint on the cultures of the American South and forged a persistent affinity between Ireland and the South."

Not long before adventurers sailing for the first Queen Elizabeth set out to colonize the land they would call Virginia, they rehearsed the sport of empire on another outpost in the western ocean. They fought its native tribes and seized their lands. Irked by the natives’ stubborn resistance and their obdurate faith in a seemingly barbarous religion, the conquerors resettled the island with thousands of British newcomers who subdued the natives but eventually developed their own economic and political quarrels with the “mother country.” Suffering spread through the island until millions of its people fled westward, many to the American South. But among those remaining behind, bitterness festered between the descendants of the original natives and the newcomers. Discrimination inspired a civil rights movement, followed by repression and abetted by indelible memories on either side. And as President Lincoln said, the war came.