During the month of March, the irishauthor.us has been highlighting Irish and Irish/Americans who have made a very significant impact on American society. All Irish came to the United States as immigrants. Those who made it in the early days, were considered very fortunate as many of their neighbors and fellow countrymen died on the coffin ships which transported them from Ireland. They came to America for many reasons; to escape starvation, oppression, persecution, to join battles in which they felt an affinity and to generally improve the lives of following generations.
Everyone knows about the Great Famine that decimated the population during the years 1844 – 1849 and is considered to be the spark of the great emigration. But a recent pictorial from Irish Central sheds light on a less-talked-about period following the great famine. In the aftermath of the famine, landlords (many of them “absentee”) exploited peasant farmers by ruthlessly raising rents above what they could pay, leading to widespread evictions backed by the British government.
It is estimated that between 1849 and 1854, the number of people having been left homeless and destitute from evictions totaled around 500,000. This is all the more horrific when one considers that these people were the survivors of a devastating famine which had already brought death or emigration to millions. As if their struggle to stay alive each day was not enough of a challenge, they were forced out of their homes by English agents and made watch as their meagre possessions were set alight or tumbled to the ground.
Out of these humble and persecuted origins; great leaders, inventers, statesmen and women, defenders of the downtrodden, writers and hardworking tradesmen would emerge and continue to emerge over the following centuries.