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Ignatiev Book Review

             I found Noel Ignatiev's book, How the Irish became white, confusing in the way information was presented, it seemed as if it was not interwoven tightly enough with each sub-thesis presented for the individual chapters. Most of the chapters progressed chronologically with each example firmly showing proof for whatever it was he was out to claim. Other chapters were more random and the examples went back and forth in time which caused me to re-read the introduction to refresh my memory on what the chapter set to prove.
             Ignatiev's main thesis stated that the Irish immigrants felt they had to fit into American society and in order to do so; they had to discriminate against the blacks. The Catholic Church, Democratic Party and Labor Unions all played a role in shaping the immigrants into the people they became. At first, the Irish were portrayed as followers willing to go along with the status quo, but later they learned how to play the race game and incited incidents to prove to America that they too were white. They story began by the immigrants demonstrating their allegiance to America by way of denouncing their homeland.
             Chapter One introduced Daniel O"Connell who was described as being, "the most popular figure in Ireland and among the Irish throughout the world". O"Connell thought that he could influence the immigrants into fighting against slavery by reminding them their roots. Ignatiev used O"Connell's plea for abolition as a means to show how dedicated the immigrants were to their new country. At one point, O"Connell issued an ultimatum that they "will recognize you as Irishmen no longer" if the immigrants continued to remain silent about slavery. The immigrants were ready to let go of their ties to Ireland, "choose between Ireland and South Carolina, we say South Carolina forever". .
             The Irish immigrants resented any foreign involvement in their quest to become American.

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