Posted by: irishhungercomm | April 20, 2011

Irish Hunger Times and Slavery In America – President Obama Speaks

Frederick Douglass compares the conditions in Ireland during the Great Hunger Era to that of American Slavery times.

From Christine C. Quinn, Speaker, NYC Council

On March 17th, I attended President Barack Obama’s St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House.  During his remarks, the President spoke about the very special connection between Frederick Douglass, one of our country’s most important historical figures and abolitionists, and the Irish people.

In the autumn of 1845, as Ireland was descending into the nightmare of the Great Famine, Frederick Douglass arrived on an anti-Slavery lecture tour.  He was shocked and appalled by the conditions of the Irish peasantry and likened them to those he was familiar with on various American plantations.  Writing from Ireland to the American Abolitionist William Garrison on February 26, 1846, Douglass stated:

“Here you have an Irish hut or cabin, such as millions of the people of Ireland live in. And some live in worse than these. Men and women, married and single, old and young, lie down together, in much the same degradation as the American Slaves. I see much here to remind me of my former condition, and I confess I should be ashamed to lift up my voice against American slavery, but that I know the cause of humanity is one the world over. He who really and truly feels for the American slave, cannot steel his heart to the woes of others; and he who thinks himself an abolitionist, yet cannot enter into the wrongs of others, has yet to find a true foundation for his anti-slavery faith”.

In Dublin, Belfast, Cork and throughout Ireland, Douglass was greeted by large enthusiastic crowds who welcomed him as a hero – a deep reverence for the man that continues to this day.

Recently, my City Council colleagues and I sent a letter to President Obama urging him to participate in the unveiling of the Frederick Douglass Memorial in Cork during his upcoming trip to Ireland.  Having escaped the trauma of slavery in the American South, Douglass spent the remainder of his life fighting for justice and equality for all people.  It is his legacy that compels us today to continue working toward a better Ireland and America and a better world.

In other news, I’d like to thank everyone who joined my colleagues and me at the City Council’s Irish Heritage celebration on March 30th at the Mutual of America Building.

We were so happy to see so many of you there as we honored NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly with the Thomas Manton Irish Man of the Year Award for his commitment to keeping New York the safest big city in America.

It was also a real privilege to honor Mae O’Driscoll, Director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, and Mary Regina Shane, who works as a nurse at the World Trade Center Construction Site.

Finally, I’d like to give a special thanks to Tom Moran, CEO of Mutual of America, for donating the space for this year’s event.

Here is a link to pictures from the evening:

I hope you enjoy them!

Christine C. Quinn
NYC Council


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