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|List of Illustrations|
|I||Something in the Air||6|
|II||White Negroes and Smoked Irish||34|
|III||The Transubstantiation of an Irish Revolutionary||62|
|IV||They Swung their Picks||92|
|V||The Tumultuous Republic||124|
|VI||From Protestant Ascendancy to White Republic||148|
Posted July 21, 2003
Ignatiev¿s stated purpose, in the broadest sense, in writing this work, was an attempt to examine immigrant assimilation and the evolution of an American working class. On a narrower level he sought to divine why the Irish Catholics, an oppressed race in their own land, became part of an oppressor race in the United States. His thesis is that the Irish immigrant made a conscious decision to adopt Anglo-Saxon racism in order to gain a foot up in a competitive society -- to the disadvantage of Afro-Americans and the frustration of the formation of a united working class in America. He failed in his attempt on both accounts. Eric Foner is a Marxist historian. Ignatiev is a wannabe. Foner marshals his evidence, ignores the irrelevant, and analyses the meaningful from a leftist prospective. Ignatiev amasses a great deal of stuff, is unable to cull the meaningless and, without any sense of organization, tries to cram the results into his fevered preconceptions of racial relations in the nineteenth century. The result would be comical if in doing so he had not slandered an oppressed people striving to enter the American working class against all odds. Ignatiev created a racial construct -- the Irish ¿ that fails to account for the substantial differences and interests between the Irish in America and those in Ireland, between Irish-Americans and native-born Irish, and between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants. Much of Ignatiev¿s evidence relates to events prior to the Great Famine and the mass migration of destitute Irish Catholics to America. The net effect of this conglomeration is to obscure and to trivialize the struggle of Irish Catholics to climb out of the depths of poverty while burdening them with the racial and religious bigotry of their former oppressors. He criticizes the Irish for not taking up the abolitionist cause and labels them as racists for their failure to do so.. Ignatiev seems unaware that a substantial number of abolitionists were white supremacists who believed that the superior Anglo-Saxon race abased itself by enslaving the inferior black race. It never occurred to Ignatiev that the apparent indifference of the Irish immigrants to slavery was not motivated by racism but that these people, engaged in a hand to mouth struggle for survival, were trying to avoid the stigma of ¿No Irish Need Apply.¿ Ignatiev¿s publisher makes the claim that the author reveals ¿how the Irish used labor unions, the Catholic Church and the Democratic party to help gain and secure their newly found place in the White Republic.¿ This assertion raises the question of whether or not the publisher ever read this work for there is not one reference to the Catholic Church and its myriad institutions of charity and education which the Irish Catholics both established and exploited in order to raise themselves from poverty to membership in the working class and beyond. It is said that the empty drum resonates the loudest. Ignatiev at every opportunity, in this work and elsewhere, proclaims his abhorrence for racism. Racism, that is, as demonstrated by others. Indeed he is so busy berating others he fails to note the mote in his own eye. Witness Ignatiev¿s stereotyping of the Irish. Huck-Finn must have been Irish because his father was the town drunk. [p. 58.] Witness Ignatiev¿s belittling of the contribution of Irish born volunteers fighting for the Union in the Civil War. ¿ The number of Irish who took part in the [New York draft] riots was not less than the number who wore the blue uniform.¿ [p. 88.] According to official records more than one hundred thousand native born Irish fought for the North in that war, thousands of whom died in combat. According to Iver Bernstein in The New York City Draft Riots, a source favorably cited by Ignatiev, there was far fewer people engaged in those riots, Irish immigrants, German immigrants and native-born Americans combined. In summation the book fails both
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Posted August 2, 2000
Having thoroughly read the book, This reviewer found it to be a fair assesment of how the Catholic Irish, who were oppressed, became the opressors. Not flowing in some sections, however a patient reader will get much out of it. Well documented source list.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 20, 2000
Can anyone write a book? If this made it to the store shelves, I guess the answer is a disappointing YES. The author's premise that immigrant Irish became racists once they stepped on US soil is not only flawed but historically innacurate. While Catholic churches burned in every US city and Irish lived in slums, the author portrays pre- and post-Civil War Irish as robber barons dedicated to the premeditated oppression of blacks. Unbelievably, the author totally glosses over the root effects of something as elementary as the 1845 British genocide (commonly known as the Irish Potato Famine)and attempts to hide his agenda by overwhelming the reader with meaningless footnotes and arcane references. I guess once you GET to Harvard you don't have to do your homework anymore. I suggest the author aidit Economics 101.
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Posted August 9, 2010
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