Ethnic Groups and Discrimination
Almost a million Irish Immigrants came to America in the years of what is called the Great Potato Famine. Never has there been such a poor large group of individuals that has entered the United States of America as the poor refugees of Ireland had. The Irish were considered the lowest on the society scale and were without any help. Just to survive daily was to be a battle for basic human survival for them. The Irish Immigrants were not only faced with the hardship of survival but also dealt with all kinds of discrimination, which included relining, double jeopardy, segregation, and even institutional discrimination.
Once the Irish Immigrants arrived at the ports they were greeted by people called runners. Runners were hired to drag an immigrant to a place where they could have shelter and warm food for extra ordinarily large amounts of money. The Irish were forced to live in shabby tenements, down in the damp cellars and basements. They were forced to live with other immigrants in these squalors so called rooms for rent. Outside many cities where what were known as Shanty Town or Irish Town, the Irish were living in lean-tos which were no better than the cellars or basements when they first arrived. The Irish immigrants were considered filth and a bad influence in the nearby cities. Many Irish immigrants were brought to America to work because they were known as hard workers and they needed money. Although most of the Irish immigrants had employment and were not poor, they were still forced to live in their communities with the other Irish immigrants. This enabled them to live slightly better than their counterparts in the tenements (Hy Kinsella, 2008). The Irish immigrants were constantly dissuaded from renting any vacant apartments outside their community and were sent back to those areas. The segregation and relining was largely prevalent in the 1850.
The Irish had to work dangerous jobs in factories, building canals, working the coal mines, and building the railroads. When the Irish immigrants applied for an advertised position promising decent wages, if they were hired the wages would be reduced to 50 cents a day. Any Irish applicant was constantly bullied into accepting the lower position and wages. Discrimination was a constant issue the Irish; they were exposed to it every day. The rich businessman benefited by hiring the Irish immigrants, getting rid of stubborn workers or troublesome workers that wanted higher pay with the Irish workers. This led to further apprehension of the Irish Immigrants, the Irish were often harassed by the American Protective Association (APA) and the Ku Klux Klan (Library of Congress, 2002). Discrimination invaded the ???Help Wanted??? ads for domestic help because the ads had ???NINA,??? which meant No Irish Need Apply.
Protestants were native born citizens and had nothing but hatred for the Irish Catholic Immigrants. Along with the discrimination of conditions, their ability to work cheap was not enough to bear; they also had to suffer the religious battles. Irish was not enough to battle discrimination against, now they had to battle being Catholic. Verbal attacks often led to numerous amounts of mob violence. There began groups emerging such as the Native American Party because of the anti-Catholic and the anti-immigrant attitudes in 1840.
As slavery took hold and shook the nation any troubles the Native Americans had with the Irish Immigrants took second place. Over 140,000 Irish Immigrants were enlisted in the Union Army as the American Civil War came about. Although the Irish Immigrants still had the discrimination, segregations, redlining, and employment wage issues they proved themselves loyal and dedicated soldiers. After the Civil War the Irish continued to provide the work necessary to expand during the industrialization of America. ???They were carpenters assistants, boat-builders, dock-hands, bartenders and waiters. In an era when there were virtually no governmental constraints on American capitalism, the Irish organized the first trade unions and conducted strikes when necessary for higher wages, shorter hours, and safer working conditions??? (The History Place, 2000).
The Irish donated faithfully to their Catholic Churches, as these churches became the heart of their families; assisting families with education, support and activities. These Catholic Churches also protected the Irish communities from the prejudices they faced.
Once the Irish were eligible to vote, they used this opportunity to benefit their communities. New York could no longer politically ignore the large numbers of Irish. ???Sons and grandsons of Famine immigrants joined the democratic party in droves??? (The History Place, 2000). The Irish Immigrants learned their way out was through voting; they began becoming organized and had candidates as city council and later the Mayor??™s Office.
Since I have mixed blood in my background, I proudly stand for the Irish, Swedish, Scotsman, and German heritage. The Immigrants may have our own struggles and demons to battle but we remember who we are and where we came from. We have our backbones and we use it every chance we have to battle our way out of a situation. America may be called the melting pot of the world, but it made us who we are today.
Hy Kinsella (2008). Irish Immigrants in America during the 19th Century. Retrieved
November 21, 2008, from http://www.kinsella.org/history/histira.htm
The History Place (2000). Irish Potato Famine. Retrieved November 18, 2008, from
Library of Congress (2002). Immigration-Irish. Retrieved November 21, 2008, from