March, in its entirety is Irish American Heritage Month. First proclaimed in 1995 by Congress, and proclaimed every year since by the President of the United States it is important for us as Irish Americans to remember the strides that our Irish forefathers made to make this country what it is today.
This March it is important that we remember from whence our Irish forbearers came, what they left behind, and what they became. An Gorta Mor, or the Great Hunger (1845-1850) drove more than 2 million Irish men, women, and children off the land to face challenges in cold new worlds. Those who couldn’t afford passage simply starved to death, many buried in mass, unmarked graves. Those who found passage across the great waters were transported in the steerage quarters of the coffin ships, where disease and death were rampant; many never laying eyes on their new home land.
When those that lived through the long journey landed on what they thought would be a land of hope and tolerance, they were met with strong anti-Irish, and anti-Catholic racism. Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s the Irish were continuously characterized by newspapers and politicians as being unruly alcoholics comparable to animals, and simply unfit for white Anglo-Saxon America.
Yet, through all the racism and strong anti-Irish sentiment, the Irish pulled through; working their way up the ladder, and building America brick by brick on their way. The strides of our ancestors have made us the tenacious, strong willed…if not stubborn people we are today.