Day 1- You will be introduced to photographs and film clips where we will attempt to demonstrate interactions between African Americans and Irish Americans.

You will then be assigned a short biography of an historical figure that you will have to read for homework

Day 2- You will be asked to describe your historical figure and to discuss their concepts of freedom, liberty, and equality.

You will then be divided into teams to investigate a primary source written by or dealing with one of these figures.  You will work with your team to analyze the source, compose answers to the questions, and prepare a presentation about your impressions of this source.

Daniel O’Connell’s “Address from the People of Ireland” from The Liberator,Vol. XII, No.12; March 25 1842; pp45,46,47. Boston Public Library (Rare Books)

Address from People of Ireland_Liberator 1842

  1. How does Daniel O’Connell attempt to link the struggle for Irish independence with the cause of the abolitionist movement?

  2. Summarize the main message he is giving to the Irish in America (please cite specific  examples)

  3. How and why does O’Connell use the Declaration of Independence to energize the Irish in America toward the abolitionist movement?

  4. What would the responses have been to this document in the Irish community in America?

  5. What in O’Connell’s background would cause him to be concerned about the issue of slavery?


Wendell Phillips 1842 speech "Irish Sympathy with the Abolition Movement" transcription:

  1. Why is Phillips applauding the Irish at the Faneuil Hall meeting?  Why is it significant that the Irish are supporting the anti-slavery movement? What struggle are they enduring?

  2. Who also supports the abolitionist cause? What actions do they take to support it?  How does Phillips feel about it?

  3. According to Phillips who are the real slave holders in America and why is this case?

  4. What does Irish liberty and freedom have in common with the liberty and freedom of African Americans at this time? How does Phillips suggest the Irish who immigrate to America support the cause of liberty and justice in their new home?


Frederick Douglass 1843 Speech/3rd autobiography excerpts

  1. Go to page 84 using the above link.  How does Douglass describe his encounter with two Irishman on the docks?  Why do you think he mentions their ethnicity?  Why do you think it was important for him to include this incident in his autobiography?

  2. What does this encounter tell us about working peoples conceptions of freedom and liberty in antebellum America?

  3. Go to page 301 and read the excerpts from Douglass’ speech to the New York Anti-Slavery Convention.  How does he describe the Democratic party?

  4. What does Douglass have to say about Irish and Irish American conceptions of freedom and democracy?  According to Douglass, how are concepts of race and freedom connected with economic opportunities?  How do you think the two men from the docks would have reacted to Douglass’ statement?


Frederick Douglass 1852 speech

What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro

  1. What is Douglass’ conception of the importance of the Declaration of Independence at the start of the speech? What did this document symbolize to the nation in 1852?  What does this document mean to Douglass at this time?

  2. What does Douglass mean when he says: “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine?”

  3. How does Douglass make use of religion and moral arguments to bolster his points?

  4. Imagine you are in Rochester, New York and you are in the audience listening to Douglass deliver this address.  What emotions would you have felt?  How would you have reacted to his statements?  How would you imagine that others would have reacted to this speech?  


John Mitchell speech to Bostonians 1854 and Henry Ward Beecher’s response contained in the New York Times.

Click on each image for the PDF version.

link to PDF of John Mitchell speech to people of Boston
  1. Who is John Mitchell and what is he responding to in this newspaper editorial?

  2. What sorts of challenges does Beecher offer to Mitchell?  What is the tone of his response?

  3. How does Mitchell conceive of American citizenship for Irish Americans?  How does he link the cause of freedom in Ireland with American notions of liberty, freedom, and democracy?

  4. What do these three articles have to tell us about the connections between religion, morality, and concepts of liberty in the mid-nineteenth century?


Political Cartoon Analysis

O’Connell’s call and Pat’s Reply” 1843

American Sympathy and Irish Blackguardism” 1843

Use this handout for your analysis.


Day 3-Today you will present your document and the conclusions, and we will discuss the question of how views of freedom and equality have changed over time.  You will record factual information and differing views on a grid for notes.

Day 4-Today you will finish presentations and make connections between these documents, and attempt to speculate as to what would happen between these groups.  For homework you will read an excerpt from an essay entitled “Irish-Americans Workers and White Racial Formation in the Antebellum United States” by David Roediger.

Day 5-You will respond to the following writing prompt:  “Shared oppression need not generate solidarity but neither must it necessarily breed contempt of one oppressed group for the other.  For some time there were strong signs that the Irish might not fully embrace white supremacy (Roediger 134).”  What does this quote mean and what evidence does Roediger offer to back up this assertion?  Based on your analysis of the primary source materials, do you think it was possible for African Americans and the Irish to reach “common ground.”  We will discuss Roediger’s essay and discuss the legacies of these time periods.