The Fallout from No Irish Need Apply Article Spreads Worldwide- Teen Historian Rocks

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nina irish ape
Thomas Nast and other cartoonists often depicted Irish immigrants as subhumans with ape-like features.

On July 19, I posted a blog about the debunking of a myth. The myth, spread by Professor Richard Jensen, is that No Irish Need Apply (NINA) signs and ads were not encountered on more than a handful of occasions by Irish immigrants in the United States. A young high school student successfully refuted his claim. More on that student in the second half of this article. First I want to talk about the phenomenal reaction to her research.

For background, in 2002 Professor Richard Jensen, of the University of Illinois Chicago published a scholarly article saying that “No Irish Need Apply” ads never existed beyond a couple of isolated instances. Jensen went on to claim that “the Irish” had created a “myth of victimization” around these signs and ads in order to use alleged past discrimination for a variety of nefarious purposes. On July 4, 2015, a high school girl, Rebecca Fried, published an article in the Oxford-based Journal of Social History showing that Jensen was wrong, that there were, in fact, many No Irish Need Apply ads, signs, and mentions of ads and signs in newspaper articles from the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

I first heard about the high school student’s article on an Irish American web site. I had read Jensen’s article when it came out in 2002 and questioned it then. I knew of at least two documented uses of “No Irish Need Apply” ads, and I suspected that there must be more. When I read Rebecca Fried’s article, my girlfriend Michele Ascione volunteered to search the database of one local newspaper, the Brooklyn Eagle, and she found dozens more ads that Fried had not listed. This convinced me that Jensen was wrong and I used my resources as a Hofstra Law School professor to access databases and find even more No Irish Need Apply ads.

I put my own article on the subject up on the evening of July 19. I knew it would draw the interest of readers and that it was likely to be popular. Since Michele and I had invested a number of hours in it, I hoped it would be one of the most-viewed articles of July.  When I woke up the next morning, it had already become the most popular new article of the year.

Generally non-media affiliated bloggers consider getting 1,000 to 2,000 “hits” a reasonable goal for an article. By the end of July, the article had picked up more than 40,000 hits. On August 1, it was getting more than 1,000 hits per hour. As of today, the total number has risen above 125,000.

The Long Island Wins article was important in spreading what would otherwise have been a limited-readership academic article. When professors in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia read the Long Island Wins article, they sent it on to their students and really helped make it viral.

Newsweek picked up the story soon thereafter, citing Long Island Wins as a source. Author Dan Bier wrote that:

Jensen argues that the “No Irish Need Apply” slogan—the infamous discriminatory display against Irish immigrants to the United States in the 19th century—is largely a myth. He contends that the slogan, referred to as “NINA,” is a case of projected self-victimization that Irish communities enlisted to evoke sympathy or encourage immigrant solidarity, while also suggesting that evidence of NINA’s actual use was exceedingly rare.

There’s a major problem with the Jensen/NINA thesis, though: It’s complete bunk.

The article praises Fried and goes on to ask if we have changed that much as a nation from the NINA days given the current discrimination against Mexican immigrants.

The story was next picked up in a big way by the Daily Beast. Ben Collins revealed that Rebecca Fried, who most of us assumed was college bound, was completing 8th grade when the article was submitted and is only now entering high school.

You are entitled to a spit take. It was a fourteen year old who debunked the college professor.

Here is how Ben Collins describes the genesis of what is now an internationally known scholarly article:

Rebecca never set out to prove the [Jensen] thesis wrong. She was just interested in an article her dad brought home from work one day.

“Now and then I bring home stuff for the kids to read if I think they will find it interesting or will convey some lesson,” says Michael Fried, Rebecca’s father. “Half the time they don’t read them at all. Sometimes they’ll read something if I suggest it. Nothing has ever come of any of these things other than this one.”

Rebecca wasn’t even trying to disprove her dad—let alone an academic at the University of Illiniois-Chicago. She just figured she’d Google the words and see what came up over 100 years ago.

“Just for the fun of it, I started to run a few quick searches on an online newspaper database that I found on Google,” she says. “I was really surprised when I started finding examples of NINA ads in old 19th-century newspapers pretty quickly.”

So she started collecting a handful of examples, then dozens, then more. She went to as many newspaper databases as she could. Then she thought, somebody had to have done this before, right?

“I didn’t see anything right away. This led me to wonder if it might be worth writing up in some form,” she says. “I showed my dad right away when I started finding these NINA ads. We just didn’t know whether this was already widely known and, if it wasn’t, whether it would be viewed as a topic worth considering for publication.”

Rebecca’s father sought advice from a historian whom they had seen cited by Jensen as someone who erroneously believed that NINA ads existed. Kirby Miller is a retired history professor from the University of Missouri. He has a long career as a scholar of immigration history and he served as a consultant to a PBS documentary on immigration to the United States.

When Jensen’s original article appeared, Miller had criticized it. According to the Daily Beast:

“From the first, my responses to Jensen’s claims had been strongly negative, as were those of a few other scholars, but, for various reasons, most historians, social scientists, journalists, et cetera accepted or even embraced Jensen’s arguments,” says Miller…

Miller says he knew something was fishy from the outset. First of all, he’d seen the advertisements years ago—well before something like Google Scholar made them easy to search for—as a graduate student at UC Berkeley in the 1970s. But something else tipped him off.

“Even more suspicious is that it seemed to fit into a political or ideological framework, in addition to his [Jensen’s] own writing, which was obviously polemically bent,” he says….
Miller says he wrote to Jensen at one point to contest it.

“Jensen’s email response to my criticisms was that they were to be expected because I was an Irish-American and a Catholic,” says Miller.
“In fact, as I responded to him, I am neither.”

The Daily Beast article is well worth reading for the background on the high schooler. The question a lot of people have asked me since my blog post appeared is whether Rebecca Fried will become a historian. The Daily Beast delved into this:

Now, Rebecca says she might continue along this same path, “exploring other areas where digitized newspaper evidence might supply new historical insights.” She thinks there “might still be some low-hanging fruit for researchers.”

But maybe not. Maybe she’ll be something completely different. She’s 14 years old. She has to start high school in a month.

“For the longer term, it’s too early to tell,” she says. “But I’ve become really interested in history through this process, and I think that would be an incredibly fascinating career path.”

If she does want to be an historian, when she goes to college about a half-decade from now, it’ll be time for her to tell a story no one will believe, once again.

And, for a second time, Professor Miller will be happy to help her prove it.

Rebecca Fried’s article has now been covered and praised everywhere from the Washington Post and the Smithsonian Magazine to Seventeen Magazine.

Teen Schools Professor on No Irish Need Apply, blazed Smithsonian’s headline.  Seventeen titled its article; This Savvy Eighth Grader Changed U.S. History With One Simple Google Search, encouraging other teenage girls to look to her example.

Unfortunately, Professor Jensen has not responded graciously to Rebecca Fried’s finds. He has gone on the attack against her (and me). That will be the subject of my next post on the high school student who confounded the college professor.

The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that examines the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear twice monthly between 2011 and 2017. Here are the articles we have published so far:

1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War – Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.

2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America – Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.

3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist– A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.

4. Immigrant Leader Carl Schurz Tells Lincoln to Stand Firm Against Slavery.

5. …And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants

6. The Rabbi Who Seceded From the South

7. The Fighting 69th-Irish New York Declares War

8. The Germans Save St. Louis for the Union

9. New York’s Irish Rush to Save Washington

10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.

11. Carl Schurz Meets With Lincoln To Arm the Germans

12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?– The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.

13. Why the Germans Fought for the Union?

14. Why Did the Irish Fight When They Were So Despised?

15. The “Sons of Garibaldi” Join the Union Army

16. The Irish Tigers From Louisiana

17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers

18. The St. Louis Germans Set Out To Free Missouri

19. Wilson’s Creek Drowns Immigrant Dream of Free Missouri

20. English-Only in 1861: No Germans Need Apply

21. After Bull Run: Mutineers, Scapegoats, and the Dead

22. St. Louis Germans Revived by Missouri Emancipation Proclamation

23. Jews Fight the Ban on Rabbis as Chaplains

24. Lincoln Dashes German Immigrants Hopes for Emancipation

25. When Hatred of Immigrants Stopped the Washington Monument from Being Built

26. Inside the Mind of a Know Nothing

27. The Evolution of the Know Nothings

28. The Know Nothings Launch a Civil War Against Immigrant America

29. The Know Nothings: From Triumph to Collapse

30. The Lasting Impact of the Know Nothings on Immigrant America.

31. Lincoln, the Know Nothings, and Immigrant America.

32. Irish Green and Black America: Race on the Edge of Civil War.

33. The Democratic Party and the Racial Consciousness of Irish Immigrants Before the Civil War

34. The Confederates Move Against Latino New Mexico

35. Nuevomexicanos Rally As Confederates Move Towards Santa Fe—But For Which Side?

36. The Confederate Army in New Mexico Strikes at Valverde

37. The Swedish Immigrant Who Saved the U.S. Navy

38. The Confederates Capture Santa Fe and Plot Extermination

39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.

40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.

41. Did Immigrants Hand New Orleans Over to the Union Army?

42. Did New Orleans’ Immigrants See Union Soldiers As Occupiers or Liberators?

43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.

44. Union General Ben Butler Leverages Immigrant Politics in New Orleans

45. Thomas Meager: The Man Who Created the Irish Brigade

46. Thomas Meagher: The Irish Rebel Joins the Union Army

47. Recruiting the Irish Brigade-Creating the Irish American

48. Cross Keys: A German Regiment’s Annihilation in the Shenandoah Valley

49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.

50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.

51. Slaves Immigrate from the Confederacy to the United States During the Peninsula Campaign

52. The Irish 9th Massachusetts Cut Off During the Seven Days Battles

53. Union Defeat and an Irish Medal of Honor at the End of the Seven Days

54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.

55. Carl Schurz: To Win the Civil War End Slavery

56. Carl Schurz: From Civilian to General in One Day

57. Did Anti-German Bigotry Help Cause Second Bull Run Defeat?

58. Immigrant Soldiers Chasing Lee Into Maryland

59. Scottish Highlanders Battle at South Mountain

60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”– A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation

61. The Irish Brigade at Antietam

62. Private Peter Welsh Joins the Irish Brigade

63. Preliminaries to Emancipation: Race, the Irish, and Lincoln

64. The Politics of Emancipation: Lincoln Suffers Defeat

65. Carl Schurz Blames Lincoln for Defeat

66. The Irish Brigade and Virginia’s Civilians Black and White

67. The Irish Brigade and the Firing of General McClellan

68. General Grant Expells the Jews

69. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Its Destruction At Fredericksburg.

70. Fredericksburg: The Worst Day in the Young Life of Private McCarter of the Irish Brigade

71. Forever Free: Emancipation New Year Day 1863

72. Private William McCarter of the Irish Brigade Hospitalized After Fredericksburg

73. The Immigrant Women That Nursed Private McCarter After Fredericksburg

74. Nursing Nuns of the Civil War

75. The Biases Behind Grant’s Order Expelling the Jews

76. The Jewish Community Reacts to Grant’s Expulsion Order

77. Lincoln Overturns Grant’s Order Against the Jews

78. Irish Families Learn of the Slaughter at Fredericksburg

79. Requiem for the Irish Brigade

80. St. Patrick’s Day in the Irish Brigade

81. Student Asks: Why Don’t We Learn More About Immigrants in the Civil War?

82. Missouri’s German Unionists: From Defeat to Uncertain Victory

83. Missouri Germans Contest Leadership of Unionist Cause

84. German Leader Franz Sigel’s Victory Earns a Powerful Enemy

85. Immigrant Unionists Marching Towards Pea Ridge

86. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge: Opening Moves

87. Pea Ridge: The German Unionists Outflanked

88. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge

89. The Organization of the “German” XI Corps

90. The Irish Brigade on the Road to Chancellorsville

91. The “German” XI Corps on the Eve of Chancellorsville

92. The “Germans Run Away” at Chancellorsville

93. The New York Times, the Germans, and the Anatomy of a Scapegoat at Chancellorsville

94. An Irish Soldier Between Chancellorsville and Gettysburg

95. Lee’s Army Moves Towards Gettysburg: Black Refugees Flee

96. Iron Brigade Immigrants Arrive at Gettysburg

97. Iron Brigade Immigrants Go Into Battle the First Day at Gettysburg

98. The “German” XI Corps at Gettysburg July 1, 1863

99. An Irish Colonel and the Defense of Little Round Top on the Second Day at Gettysburg

100. A Prayer Before Death for the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg: July 2, 1863

101. The Irish Regiment that Ended “Pickett’s Charge”: July 3, 1863

102. Five Points on the Edge of the Draft Riots

103. Before the Draft Riots: The Cultivation of Division

104. The New York Draft Riots Begin

105. Convulsion of Violence: The First Day of the New York Draft Riots

106. The Draft Riots End in a Sea of Blood-July 14-15, 1863.

107. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate and the Know Nothings

108. Killing Pat Cleburne: Know Nothing Violence

109. Pat Cleburne: Arresting a General, Becoming a General

110. The Immigrant Story Behind “Twelve Years a Slave”

111. A German Immigrant Woman’s Gettysburg Address

112. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate’s Emancipation Proclamation

113. Pat Cleburne: The South Can’t Use Black Soldiers Without Ending Slavery

114. The Suppression of Pat Cleburne’s Emancipation Proposal

115. An Irish Immigrant Colonel’s Warnings Ignored at Chickamauga

116. An Immigrant Colonel’s Fighting Retreat at Chickamauga

117. August Willich: German Socialist at Chickamauga

118. Hans Heg:at Chickamauga: Norwegian Commander on the Eve of Battle

119. Ivan and Nadine Turchin: Russian Revolutionary Aristocrats at Chickamauga

120. German Immigrants Pinned Down at Chickamauga

121. Hans Heg: To Die for His Adopted Country at Chickamauga

122. Patrick Guiney: An Irish Colonel on the Edge of the Wilderness

123. Immigrants March Out of The Wilderness and Into a Wicked Hail of Gunfire

124. Peter Welsh in the Irish Brigade’s Purgatory at Spotsylvania

125. Peter Welsh: What Sacrifice Must the Immigrant Make for His Adopted Land?

126. A Second Irish Brigade’s Catastrophe at a Forgotten Fight Near Fredericksburg

127. An Irish Man and a French Woman Between Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor

128. Two Irish Brigades Swept Away by a Hurricane from Hell at Cold Harbor

129. Petersburg: The Start of a Ten Month Siege that Devoured Men and Disabled the Irish Brigade

130. A Volcano in Virginia: The Battle of the Crater

131. 1864 Election: The Immigrant Voter & Abraham Lincoln

132. August Belmont: The German Jewish Immigrant Who Led the Opposition to Lincoln’s 1864 Reelection

133. Lincoln and the Superiority of the “Negro” over the Irish

134. Lincoln’s Germans and the Election of 1864

135. Lincoln’s German Lawyer Comes Out Swinging in the Election of 1864

136. Lincoln Wins the Election of 1864 With Immigrant Votes

137. American Refugee Camp in Civil War Kentucky Destroyed by Union Soldiers

138. Kentucky Civil War Refugee Camp Reborn and Reconstructed After Expulsions

139. Immigrant German “Hamburgers” Tormented and Captured at Petersburg

140. German General Weitzel and His African Canadians at Petersburg

141. Irish Regiment at the Beginning of the End of the Confederacy at Five Forks

142. Richmond Burning: The German Immigrant and Black Troops Who Saved the City

143. Appomattox: The Capture of a Confederate Army & the Fall from Grace of an Immigrant General

144. Lincoln Assassinated: John Wilkes Booth’s Immigrant Conspirators

145. Immigrants Hunt Lincoln’s Killers and Help Capture the Confederate President

146. Lincoln’s Murder and the New York Irish American

147. Lincoln’s Funeral in Immigrant New York

148. German General Carl Schurz Begins His Investigation of the Post-War South

149. Carl Schurz Warned That a “System of Terrorism” Was Taking Hold in the Post-War South in 1865

150. Immigrants in the Union Navy: Minorities in the Majority

151. How Immigrants Were Recruited into the United States Navy

152. African Canadian Sailors in the Union Navy

153. High School Student Proves Professor Wrong When He Denied “No Irish Need Apply” Signs Existed

154. The Fallout from No Irish Need Apply Article Spreads Worldwide

155. No Irish Need Apply Professor Gets into a Fight With Our Blogger Pat Young Over Louisa May Alcott

156. Professor Behind No Irish Need Apply Denial May Have Revealed Motive for Attacking 14 Year Old Historian

157.  A Scottish Socialist and a German General Work to Help Slaves Become Freedpeople-Robert Dale Owen, Carl Schurz and the founding of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

 

Cultural

Painting of the Return of the 69th from Bull Run Unearthed

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Free Yale Course with David Blight on the Civil War

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