While there was remarkable success among those Irish who arrived on American shores sickly and unskilled, for a great many it would be generations before the hopes they had for their children would be fulfilled. This reality was based on the newcomers’ social and economic situation, the general distrust by Americans of foreigners, and the political reality of the State of Rhode Island. It would take the arrival of more “exotic” foreigners as well as Irish-American political and economic success to make the immigrants’ dreams for their children a reality. This talk will address Providence Irish immigrant housing, employment, family life, crime and more, and touch on the successes and joys as well as the setbacks and challenges faced by that generation.
RAYMOND J. MCKENNA received his BA in History from the University of Rhode Island and his MA in History from the University of Connecticut. His master’s thesis was on the history of immigration to America, and specifically on the Immigration Act of 1965. He taught European, Russian and American history for eleven years before going into the wine trade, full-time, in 1987. About ten years ago he returned to a project that he had worked on during his academic career: learning everything he could about the Famine Irish immigrant experience in Rhode Island, inspired by his fascination with the experiences of his ancestors. Six years ago, he “returned” to Truagh for the first time since his family left in the 1840s. Subsequently, he researches and gives talks about nineteen century Irish immigration to Rhode Island, the most recent being last March when he spoke at McCartan College in Emyvale, County Monaghan, on the migration from that small patch of land overlapping Tyrone, Monaghan, Armagh and Fermanagh.