Wage Slavery: A Black & Irish Tale

Updated: Mar 23

If you are a proud Irish-American and you gas light Black people with the phrase, The Irish were slaves too, then buckle up buttercup because history has documented your forefathers' hatred of my ancestors through the centuries. The problem is that American textbooks have strategically omitted that little Snapple fact and for a good reason - to prevent unity. The topic of discussion is going to be centered around the struggle of Irish-American plight to assimilate into being white by being Anti-Black. The history of labor in America is deep rooted in wage exploitation and racial hierarchy perpetuated by the ruling class.

Before I talk about the Irish Famine, I want to take another look at the Civil war and the mandatory draft. The Conscription Act of 1863 was what fanned the flame of tension further between Irish-Americans and Black people, because poor Irish were forced to fight in the war while free African-Americans could volunteer through the Emancipation Proclamation. The overall attitude of Irish-Americans was that they believed that the very institution of slavery was wrong but it wasn’t their problem. When their forefathers reached American soil from their native home, they were welcomed with No Irish Need Apply signs posted in store windows and caricatures of “Bridget and Patrick” in the newspapers. The Irish-Americans were forced into shacks and were in no way welcomed by English Protestants. The way that the Irish immigrants were treated in the 1800s is similar to how America treats homelessness in present day - newspapers depicting them as “drunkards” and filling up the jails and workhouses. The Great Hunger resulted in an estimated amount of one million deaths, with around the same amount of refugees having no choice but to leave their homeland. During this devastating time, the British ruling class exploited the Irish by benefitting from the blight through export records. Exports such as peas, butter, and livestock actually increased as malnutrition and death ransacked the countryside. The passage to the New World was no easy feat either, because the Irish were met with death and disease on the ships thanks to cholera. The dreaded road to hell being paved with good intentions is echoed through the actions of the Liberator himself - Daniel O’Connell.

Once upon a time, abolitionists were thrilled to partner with O’Connell because of his influence amongst the Irish-Americans based on his track record in Emerald Isle. The Great Liberator was known for spearheading the Catholic Emancipation which was successful in 1830 and leading the campaign of repealing the Act of Union of 1800. Repealing the Act of Union would restore an Irish parliament under the crown so why wouldn’t O’Connell be world famous amongst the Irish? He definitely had some choice words about America’s biggest hypocrisy in 1829 when he said, “Let America, in the fulness of her pride...wave on high her banner of freedom and its blazing stars...In the midst of their laughter and their pride, I point them to the negro children screaming for their mother whose bosom they have been torn...Let them hoist the flag of liberty, with the whip and rack on one side, and the star of freedom upon the other.” Surely his words would sway the opinions of the Irish in America to believe in the liberation from bondage in all forms but, the more prestigious Irish that resided in Philadelphia disagreed with the Liberator’s approach. These men of means sent a letter expressing to O’Connell that the admiration was there for a