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Why America Loves Hated The Irish History

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When Despised The Irish Century Refugee Crisis Emerald Isle Americans Hated American Culture Shock Potato Famine Prejudice People In And Traditions Of Documentary

Today, Irish Americans are just considered, Americans. But when they first came to the country as refugees they were seen as an infestation, a plague. Here's why Americans hated but now love the Irish. It all started with potatoes, or a lack thereof. By the mid 1840s, the average adult in Ireland ate over 10 pounds of potatoes per day.

They didn't have much of a choice. After centuries of oppressive British rule, most Irish lived in poverty. Potatoes were easy to grow, packed with nutrition, and, most importantly, cheap. But in 1845, a fungus, phyto-- a fungus began to eat its way through Ireland's precious crops. The potato plants started to shrivel, and Ireland's British overlords didn't seem to care.

The great hunger lasted until 1852. By the time the famine ended, some 1 million Irish had died from starvation and disease. By 1855, nearly 2 million had fled, the majority of them to the United States. The Irish encountered much resistance in the US for several reasons, including religion. Most of the Irish immigrants in the US were Roman Catholic, and there had long been bad blood between Protestants and Catholics.

Some Protestants believed this exodus of Irish immigrants was a papal army seeking to overthrow the US government and establish a new Vatican in Cincinnati. Others just worried that these newcomers would take their jobs. As with every wave of new immigrants, most of the Irish who came to the US during this time ended up taking dangerous, low-paying work. Irish Catholics also brought their love of the drink. Irish-owned pubs popped up across the country, giving the new immigrants a foothold in the economy but also leading to an ugly stereotype, the Irish as job-stealing, junk cretins.

Discrimination was rampant. Entire political parties sprung up to fight this perceived Irish menace. Members of the so-called American Party referred to themselves as Know Nothings because when questioned about their membership they claimed to know nothing. But they had a very active agenda and vowed to only elect native-born Americans-- no, not them, just the non-Catholic whites. They also started violent riots and picked street fights in Irish-Catholic neighborhoods.

But after years of discrimination, the Irish fought back, not in the streets but at the ballot box. Their sheer numbers gave them strength. They voted Irish Catholics into powerful political positions across major East Coast cities. At the same time, non-Irish Americans also started to come around to the whole Irish pub thing. And as the Irish moved up the social ladder, nativists, like the Know Nothings, shifted their prejudices to the next wave of immigrants from China and Eastern Europe.

The Irish became Irish Americans, and non-Irish Americans started to act more Irish, or at least how they thought the Irish acted. Today, Irish traditions, including music, dance, and drink, have been woven into the fabric of American society.

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