Irish Roots in the American South

In the introduction of Strange Kin: Ireland & the American South, Kieran Quinlan, who has lived in Ireland, England, and Tennessee, discusses the fact that the Irish roots of the U.S. South have been ignored if not completely washed out since people in the south more often claim to be of English or Scotch-Irish origin. Even at the time of their emigration, when they south was rather busy dealing with the growing African American population, they weren’t the Irish coming in but rather another white face, assimilating to the southern culture in a desire to fit in. He even goes over the comparisons made between the Irish in Ireland to the African and Native Americans especially of the South.

He also reveals the striking similarities between the American South and Ireland. One claim he points out that really show how similar both regions are is “Ireland is to England, the argument sometimes goes, as the American South is to the United States: both places have long been the “problem,” if also frequently romanticized regions, of otherwise “progressive” nations. They exist all too really it often unwilling, as the untamed peripheries of their respective civilized centers” (4).  Just like with Southern exceptionalism where all the blame is placed on the south Ireland takes the blame in the United Kingdom. However, one major difference between the U.S and the U.K that Gavan Lennon points out in the podcast is, despite there being a clear divide between the north and south like in America, people In the U.K don’t identify as being from a region as aggressively as they do in the U.S. People in southern America are often proud to be southern regardless of the beliefs acquainted with it. Whereas people in the U.K, while its not something that they hide, they aren’t as prideful about it.

A concern Dr. Lennon and Dr. Caison address that can be found in both America and  Britain is the idea of white civilians somehow feeling like their way of life is in danger and this urge to be “protecting” their ideology which encourages racism and classism. With Brexit and a push from conservative America, we see more and more people being hurt by the ignorant idea superiority. Both Quinlan and Dr. Lennon acknowledge how much the American South and Ireland have in common. Frederick Douglass also this commonality, he saw that Ireland was being oppressed just as the blacks in the south were. Douglass has a great presence through out Ireland not only because that was were he went after escaping slavery, but because he played a huge role in Irish Freedom.


Quinlan, Kieran. Introduction. Strange Kin: Ireland and the American South, by Quinland Louisiana State University Press, 2005, pp. 1-18.


One thought on “Irish Roots in the American South

  1. This was an interesting blog and I enjoyed reading it. I think your point about romanticisation is an interesting one, especially when it (paradoxically) co-exists with mechanisms of distancing. As an example, I recently had an English colleague ask how I enjoyed my commute… from Glasgow. As irritations go, it was a small one, but I couldn’t decide what bugged me more: that they thought I had a 1,000 mile round trip to work, that they didn’t know the difference between Ireland and Scotland, or that they didn’t feel the need to think deeply about experiences beyond their own.

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