Proposal Title

A Wexford Migration to Savannah, Georgia

Primary Faculty Mentor’s Name

Steven Engel

Proposal Track

Student

Session Format

Paper Presentation

Abstract

The goal of this presentation is to analyze the factors that contributed to the Irish diaspora to Savannah, Georgia. Our four-person group has distilled this larger question into three groups: identity, politics, and economics. At a micro-level, we will examine different aspects of push and pull factors: political figures, economic mobility, nationalism, and heritage. The Irish in Savannah followed a broad pattern of migration across the Atlantic. In order to address the Irish diaspora, we will use cross-cultural analysis analyze these broad patterns, and therefore explain why the Irish felt the need to abandon their homeland, even though they were adamant about keeping their culture alive in America. Several researchers have explored the Irish in Savannah (Gleeson 2001; Miller 1900; Shoemaker 1990); however, the micro-level has yet to be explored. In exploring the diaspora from both sides of the Atlantic, we have examined archive materials overseas in the National Archives of Ireland, the Wexford County Archives, the Wexford Library and the Waterford County Archives. At home, we conducted research at the Georgia Historical Society, where we examined Savannah City Directories and minute books from various Irish organizations, such as the Hibernian Society. While in the archives, we found Irish entertainment and media to be essential components of our research. For example, we read about Irish identity in Pike O’Callaghan, a play about the 1798 Rebellion. Perhaps most crucial to our research were the papers of William Graves and Sons, a County Wexford shipping firm that provided passage to a large number of the Irish who left Wexford for Savannah.

At this point, our research has uncovered a wealth of detail about Irish nationalism and heritage in Savannah. Our findings point to a strong sense of Irish nationalism in Savannah, with Irish migrants bringing with them to America strong work ethic, activism, and an interest in politics back home in Ireland. Traces of Savannah’s Irish heritage can still be seen even today; for example, the town still celebrates its Irish heritage with one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the nation, and the Hibernian society continues to meet. Because of the large Irish presence in present-day Savannah, it is important that we understand the factors that contributed to Irish diaspora to Savannah, and why the Irish retained their staunch nationalism despite leaving Ireland.

Keywords

Southern History, Nationalism, Immigration, Ireland, Irish-Americans

Location

Room 2911

Presentation Year

2014

Start Date

11-15-2014 8:30 AM

End Date

11-15-2014 9:30 AM

Publication Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

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Nov 15th, 8:30 AM Nov 15th, 9:30 AM

A Wexford Migration to Savannah, Georgia

Room 2911

The goal of this presentation is to analyze the factors that contributed to the Irish diaspora to Savannah, Georgia. Our four-person group has distilled this larger question into three groups: identity, politics, and economics. At a micro-level, we will examine different aspects of push and pull factors: political figures, economic mobility, nationalism, and heritage. The Irish in Savannah followed a broad pattern of migration across the Atlantic. In order to address the Irish diaspora, we will use cross-cultural analysis analyze these broad patterns, and therefore explain why the Irish felt the need to abandon their homeland, even though they were adamant about keeping their culture alive in America. Several researchers have explored the Irish in Savannah (Gleeson 2001; Miller 1900; Shoemaker 1990); however, the micro-level has yet to be explored. In exploring the diaspora from both sides of the Atlantic, we have examined archive materials overseas in the National Archives of Ireland, the Wexford County Archives, the Wexford Library and the Waterford County Archives. At home, we conducted research at the Georgia Historical Society, where we examined Savannah City Directories and minute books from various Irish organizations, such as the Hibernian Society. While in the archives, we found Irish entertainment and media to be essential components of our research. For example, we read about Irish identity in Pike O’Callaghan, a play about the 1798 Rebellion. Perhaps most crucial to our research were the papers of William Graves and Sons, a County Wexford shipping firm that provided passage to a large number of the Irish who left Wexford for Savannah.

At this point, our research has uncovered a wealth of detail about Irish nationalism and heritage in Savannah. Our findings point to a strong sense of Irish nationalism in Savannah, with Irish migrants bringing with them to America strong work ethic, activism, and an interest in politics back home in Ireland. Traces of Savannah’s Irish heritage can still be seen even today; for example, the town still celebrates its Irish heritage with one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the nation, and the Hibernian society continues to meet. Because of the large Irish presence in present-day Savannah, it is important that we understand the factors that contributed to Irish diaspora to Savannah, and why the Irish retained their staunch nationalism despite leaving Ireland.