Today's Articles

People, Locations, Episodes

Tue, 12.26.1600

Black History in Ireland, a story

*Black history in Ireland is celebrated on this date in 1600. Segments of the Irish people were involved with the Middle Passage between 1660 and 1815.

Librarian Liam Hogan has described how Irish merchants profited from the trade, mostly indirectly as provisioners. For example, William Ronan worked for the Royal African Company in more direct involvement. He became chairman of the committee of merchants at Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast (modern Ghana), running one of the world's largest slave markets between 1687 and 1697.

Antoine Walsh, a Frenchman of Irish descent and prominent Jacobite, used his wealth generated from the slave trade to finance the Jacobite rising of 1745. Benjamin McMahon worked for eighteen years as an overseer on Jamaican plantations, later becoming an abolitionist and writing about his experiences. Tralee-born Irishman David Tuohy emigrated to Liverpool and became a captain on slave ships before settling down in the city to manage his business activities, which included the slave trade.

Felix Doran (1708–1776) was an Irish Catholic born in Ireland and moved to Liverpool, where he became very wealthy from the slave trade, financing at least 69 slave voyages. Several Caribbean Islands have significant Irish communities, with the like of Montserrat, West Indies once hosting large Irish-owned and run Sugar plantations dependent on Slave labor. The UCL Legacies of British Slavery database identifies the Irish Enslavers, compensated by the British government, for the abolition of Legal Slavery, in the British Empire. Black people (Irish: daoine goirme/daoine dubha), Africans, and nonwhites have lived in Ireland in small numbers since the 18th century.

Throughout the seventeen hundreds, they were mainly concentrated in the major cities and towns, especially in Limerick, Cork, Belfast, Kinsale, Waterford, and Dublin. During the 18th century, it was common and even fashionable for middle-class Irish families to take black servants into their households as a sign of wealth and prestige. Having a young Black servant attend an Irish lady of the house was considered a sign of exceptional wealth and high position in society. Tony Small was one of the most well-known Black servants in Ireland during this time.

During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), Small fled his owners from South Carolina, finding Lord Edward Fitzgerald in a near-death condition and assisting his recovery. Lord Fitzgerald returned to Ireland, where Tony Small became a dear friend to the family. Later, on a trip to London, Tony met his future wife, a French maid named Julia. The couple later had three children, moved to London, and established a business. Although many black servants in Ireland were African slaves, not all black people in Ireland during this period were slaves. Many were independent domestic workers, traveling musicians, artists, soldiers, and merchants. Others were servants who received a salary and were considered free people.

A few formerly enslaved Black Americans relocated to Ireland. In addition to Tony Small, the preacher John Jea and the scholar William G. Allen both resided in Ireland for several years. Many Black people who settled in Ireland assimilated into the wider Irish population, including entering mixed marriages and having children with white Irish people. 'Mulatto Jack' was also a child of interracial marriage. Abducted from Ireland in the early 18th century, he was sold as a slave in Antigua. After helping plot a slave rebellion, he was discovered by the colonists, and his release was negotiated for several months until agreed upon, providing his deportation back to Ireland.

The Black Irish singer, Rachel Baptist, is also thought to have married a white spouse in the 1760s. Formerly enslaved people who visited or toured Ireland included Olaudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass.  Afro Caribbean people descended from Irish immigrants, especially those in Barbados, Jamaica, and Montserrat, often have Irish surnames, speak a form of Caribbean English influenced by the Irish vernacular, and, in some cases, sing Irish songs.

During the Mexican American War (1846), the Saint Patrick's Battalion personified 19th-century efforts of support for rightful intersectionality over race, class, and nationality in America and Mexico. Formed and led by Jon Riley, they were abolitionists against American slavery. Ireland has never elected a Teachta Dála (TD) or Senator of African descent. Likewise, there has never been any Black cabinet member or leader of a major government institution. Black people are significantly underrepresented in Irish politics. Several reasons for this lack of representation include that people of African descent tend to be younger than the rest of the population.

Also, the PR-STV voting system fails to facilitate representation of nonwhites not clustered in a single geographic area, and the highly personalized nature of Irish politics being difficult for immigrants to make vital political connections. American civil rights elder Jesse Jackson acknowledges his descent from an Irish plantation owner in South Carolina. He brought up an Irish slave-owning great-great-grandfather of American Senator Mitch McConnell during the 2020 United States presidential election campaign. Soledad O'Brien, Mariah Cary, Joseph Seamon Cotter, and James O'Hara are of partial Irish descent. Increases in immigration have led to the growth of the community across Ireland. According to the 2016 Census of Population, 39,834 people identify as Black or Black Irish with an African background, whereas 2,863 people claim to have descended from any other Black background.

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

I said: Now will the poet sing,- Their cries go thundering Like blood and tears Into the nation’s ears, Like lightning dart Into the nation’s heart. Against disease and death and all things fell, And war, Their strophes... SCOTTSBORO, TOO, IS WORTH IT’S SONG by Countee Cullen.
Read More