The Irish on board

Around the mid 19th century new faces appeared on the block. Their appearance reflected deep sadness and endless hunger. Nevertheless, their eyes glittered with an unexplainable hope. Ship after ship called at our port, and hundreds of anxious immigrants disembarked, The Irish Famine drove people away from their homeland in the hope of a new beginning to such an extent that they soon grew to form one fourth of the city population. These were uneasy times. The United States prepared to wage a war once again. It was a split personality scenario applied to a whole country. The long-bearded president announced the Emancipation Proclamation in order to win over as many slaves as possible by promising them freedom. The proclamation and the resulting idea of anti-slavery, however, generated not only happy greetings, but incomprehension and objections as well on the part of German and Irish immigrants. They feared the liberated Blacks would endanger their prospects on the labor market.

Although the Irish did not hear about Heller’s Catch 22, they would soon find themselves in a similar entanglement as those ill fated soldiers during WW2. Once they left for America aspiring for food, work, courtesy and understanding they would soon be confronted with an unexpected action called conscription and the reaction to this: draft riots. The Irish were slightly irritated by the thought of conscription and the idea of losing their jobs. So, what did they do? They formed ‘neighborhood militia’ and went on a cleansing spree against those they considered inimical to their cause. Among others, the Black population of New York, working at the corner of Broadway and Chambers Street and on the Fifth Avenue were obvious targets of mass hysteria.