Concluding Thoughts

One line that stuck with me the most from Lauren Onkey’s introduction to her book Blackness and Transatlantic: Celtic Soul Brothers is “And although the Irish claim of blackness can be dismissed as romantic or wrongheaded, it does express an important desire for the Irish to move outside of established categories of identity… the Irish cannot simply dip a toe in and claim blackness without being infected by the other elements of American culture” (27). In other words, Onkey reaffirms the connections made between Black American struggles and the oppression of the Irish, but she also reminds readers that the Irish cannot simply pick and choose which aspects of Black American culture with which they identify. 

I think that this description aids our understanding of the course in its entirety. It is undeniable that Black and Irish authors notice connections between themselves and speak to each other through their literature and their writings, but there is always a point of contention, an undeniable difference that is both so easy and yet so challenging to pinpoint. As we have seen through the transmission of soul music across the Atlantic Ocean, the connection between Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell, and the self-identification of the Irish with the slaves in America, the Irish are willing to make connections between themselves and Black people in America but only in a way that is beneficial for the Irish, and in a way, they walk the fine line between appropriation and appreciation.

Upon reflection on previous blog posts, I focus on a wide range of topics including race as a social construct that ends up having a tremendous impact on individuals in America, class tensions in Ireland, and the tensions of individual characters in the face of larger social issues that shape their awareness and experiences. As I review these blog posts, I am noticing a theme of the individual’s experience as it is influenced by the greater context of the Black and Green Atlantic. For example, I once wrote about Grammy Cahill’s decision to find different sources of income upon Theo’s discovery that they are indirectly involved in the slave industry. I also wrote about Zoe from The Octoroon, who is white-passing but technically a slave because of her ancestry, and what that means in terms of her self-esteem and her ultimate fate. This highlights the Black and Green Atlantic as a conglomerate of choices and consequences on the individual level, like Jimmy Rabbitte creating a soul band or Zora Neale Hurston collecting Black tales from her childhood, all of which, in one way or another convey both the similarities and the differences between the Irish and Black Americans.