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September 2, 2009 9:34 PM   Subscribe

In the 1860's, Abe Grady emigrated to Kentucky from Ennis, Ireland, and married a freed slave. Yesterday, one of their great-grandchildren paid a visit to Ennis. Muhammad Ali met his cousins, and was named an honorary freeman of Ennis.

Previously: 1 2
posted by Zed (10 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I didn't think he did public appearances any longer. I'm glad to hear he isn't so far gone as to render something like this impossible.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:57 PM on September 2, 2009


Amazing story, thanks for posting. Somehow I'd missed this entire Ali/Ireland connection.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:17 PM on September 2, 2009


Ennis is one sweet little town. If you are ever in the neighborhood stop into the local pub for a Guinness.
posted by caddis at 10:49 PM on September 2, 2009


Kentucky has a number of Scotch-Irish Protestants in the Appalachian hills, but the slave-holding regions, in the lowland Bluegrass part of the state, would have been English (or German) Protestants. Nine percent of the state (well, territory) was Irish in 1790, though I don't know what percentage were Catholic (I assume few). By 1855, Louisville had attracted enough Irish Catholic immigrants (and some German Catholics) to occasion an anti-Catholic riot that killed twenty-two persons.

I suspect that (as in the most of the US), in Kentucky in the 1860s, the Catholic Irish immigrants were not yet considered quite"white".


From a lay review (I can't vouch for it) of How the Irish Became White:
Irish and Africans Americans had lots in common and lots of contact during this period; they lived side by side and shared work spaces. In the early years of immigration the poor Irish and blacks were thrown together, very much part of the same class competing for the same jobs. In the census of 1850, the term mulatto appears for the first time due primarily to inter-marriage between Irish and African Americans. The Irish were often referred to as "Negroes turned inside out and Negroes as smoked Irish." A famous quip of the time attributed to a black man went something like this: "My master is a great tyrant, he treats me like a common Irishman." Free blacks and Irish were viewed by the Nativists as related, somehow similar, performing the same tasks in society. It was felt that if amalgamation between the races was to happen, it would happen between Irish and blacks. But, ultimately, the Irish made the decision to embrace whiteness, thus becoming part of the system which dominated and oppressed blacks. Although it contradicted their experience back home, it meant freedom here since blackness meant slavery.

An article by a black writer in an 1860 edition of the Liberator explained how the Irish ultimately attained their objectives: "Fifteen or twenty years ago, a Catholic priest in Philadelphia said to the Irish people in that city, 'You are all poor, and chiefly laborers, the blacks are poor laborers; many of the native whites are laborers; now, if you wish to succeed, you must do everything that they do, no matter how degrading, and do it for less than they can afford to do it for.' The Irish adopted this plan; they lived on less than the Americans could live upon, and worked for less, and the result is, that nearly all the menial employments are monopolized by the Irish, who now get as good prices as anybody. There were other avenues open to American white men, and though they have suffered much, the chief support of the Irish has come from the places from which we have been crowded."
From a scholarly article on Frederick Douglass, his visit to Ireland, and the influence of the Irish struggle on Douglass:
It is important to note, however, the Douglass’s direct contact with the Irish at fundamental moments during his childhood and adolescence at times bolstered, and perhaps sparked, his resolve to become a free man.
. . . .
he came upon a speech in the Columbian Orator on Catholic emancipation in Ireland which had been delivered by Arthur O’Connor in the Irish House of Commons. Douglass was impressed by O’Connor’s sentiments and his declaration that he would “risk everything dear to [him] on earth” for Ireland’s independence. Douglass wrote that O’Connor provided him with a powerful vocabulary to voice beliefs within his “own soul” which “boldly” vindicated human rights and “enabled”Douglass “to utter thoughts, and to meet the arguments brought forward to sustain slavery” .O’Connor demonstrated to Douglass the powerful way that language can provoke a nation toward change.
posted by orthogonality at 11:13 PM on September 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Kentucky has a number of Scotch-Irish Protestants in the Appalachian hills, but the slave-holding regions, in the lowland Bluegrass part of the state, would have been English (or German) Protestants.

On the other hand, though, Ireland was still considered part of England in 1860, so it's possible that someone said they were "English" but still hailed from Ireland, no?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:00 AM on September 3, 2009


Agh...all those childhood memories of being dragged to the Ulster American Folk Park on school trips come flooding back...
posted by Damienmce at 4:37 AM on September 3, 2009


On the other hand, though, Ireland was still considered part of England in 1860, so it's possible that someone said they were "English" but still hailed from Ireland, no?

No more so than someone from India could have claimed the same thing, methinks.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:44 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the links and your comment, orthogonality. You just elevated this thread way over my humble post.

EmpressCallipygos: it's possible that someone said they were "English" but still hailed from Ireland, no?

If and only if that someone were the child of English people who happened to be in Ireland when their child was born. Neither the Irish nor the English thought of the Irish as English, and anti-British sentiment was running high with the potato famine in recent memory. (I'm ignoring North Ireland here.)

In doing searches pursuant to this comment, I came across this AskMe thread which links to this old NY Times article about Ali's Irish heritage.
posted by Zed at 8:00 AM on September 3, 2009


I wore my "Stereotype me, I'm Irish" shirt in honor of this. Hooray for Black Irishmen from Kentucky!
posted by Eideteker at 9:20 AM on September 3, 2009


Wow, Ennis is the town my mother's mother is from in Ireland and is also my middle name as a kind of honorific.
posted by parmanparman at 10:50 AM on September 3, 2009


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