The Irish who emigrated to America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were fleeing caste oppression and a system of landlordism that made the material conditions of the Irish peasant comparable to those of an American slave.
In the South they were occasionally employed where it did not make sense to risk the life of a slave. A they came to the cities, they were crowded into districts that became centers of crime, vice and disease.
There they commonly found themselves thrown together with free
Negroes. Irish- and Afro-Americans fought each other and the police, socialized
and occasionally intermarried, and developed a common culture of the lowly. They
also both suffered the scorn of those better situated. In antebellum America it
was speculated that if racial amalgamation was ever to take place it would begin
between those two groups.