“An Organ of the Irish Race on the Continent”: The Pilot, Irish Immigration, and Irish-American Identity, 1851-66
KATI GUMUS, GAMZE
University of Kansas
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This dissertation analyzes the history of the Pilot, an ethnic newspaper for the Irish Catholic, and its fictional and non-fictional printed material from the period between 1851 and 1866. The Great Famine (1845-1851) and the Civil War (1861-1865) act as milestones for this study, as its aim is to understand the evolution of the Famine immigrant into a naturalized citizen fighting in the ranks of the Union. The Pilot assumed a prominent place within the immigrant guidance tradition of the mid-nineteenth century as it aimed to construct Irish-American citizens out of immigrants. The transformation of the Irish immigrant into an Irish-American citizen mirrors the simultaneous transformation of the Pilot from an immigrant newspaper into an ethnic newspaper, and highlights the value of the Pilot as an institution working to elevate the standards and representation of the Irish race in the States. In order to break down the transformation of the immigrant, this study focuses on three questions in relation to the immigrant’s identity: how to be an ideal immigrant on the way to assimilation and naturalization; how to be an ideal laborer elevating the representation of the Irish race as a whole; finally, how to be an ideal Irish-American citizen proving the national belonging of the Irish to the Union. In an attempt to answer these questions and understand how the Irish acquired their white identity and racially charged discourse through print culture, this study derives greatly from whiteness studies, and examines the Pilot in order to understand how it situates the black man as the nemesis of the Irish. This dissertation examines the guidance offered by the Pilot to Irish immigrants on their way to becoming ideal immigrants, an ideal labor force, and ideal citizens; and it studies the paper’s role as the platform of an imagined community for Irish-Americans where they could come together under shared values of Catholicism, Irishness, Americanness, and whiteness.
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