Gathering Antipathy: Irish Immigrants and Race in America’s Age of Emancipation

  • Brian Kelly
Part of the Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship book series (MDC)


Recent attempts by the Irish government to assert the prominence of famine-era Irish immigrants in the cause of US slave emancipation obscure a more uneven, problematic record marked, at times, by intense antipathy towards slaves and free blacks. Focusing on the late antebellum and wartime urban North, this chapter attempts to ground this complicated record in the social, economic and cultural marginalisation of the famine-era diaspora in the United States. Departing from an influential recent literature generated by “critical whiteness studies”, the author argues that to the extent these immigrants consciously embraced “white racial identity”, their options had been severely circumscribed both by the difficult material circumstances they confronted and by their alienation from the main currents of the mid-nineteenth-century social reform, and particularly from the cause of abolition.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Kelly
    • 1
  1. 1.School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and PoliticsQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK

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