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Johanna Mellis


This research addresses the inconsistencies within American immigration and assimilation processes concerning Irish migrants during the nineteenth century. The narrative of Irish Americans is one of transformation, as they first existed as an ostracized community before becoming embraced in white supremacist America. This presentation traces this transformation and examines how whiteness served as the primary tool to distinguish the Irish from the “other”. Within the first half of this presentation, I investigate the arrival of Irish migrants and their public portrayal through discussions of scientific racism and nativism prominent among scientific journals and political cartoons. The second half entails how the Irish asserted agency to subvert their own tropes which often involved the denigration of minorities such as African American communities. Therefore, I incorporate sources that discuss lynching which may be unsuitable for some audiences. The purpose of this research is to deconstruct concepts of whiteness within the Antebellum era in the United States and examine the Irish American perceptions of how asserting one’s whiteness was a necessary act to gain political, economic, and social traction in a white supremacist society.


Presented as part of the Ursinus College Celebration of Student Achievement (CoSA) held April 22, 2021.

The downloadable .mp4 video file has a run time of 17:32.

Open Access

Available to all.