Tuesday 17 July 2018

American teenager disproves historian about anti-Irish signs

Rebecca Fried researched old newspapers to disprove an eminent historian
Rebecca Fried researched old newspapers to disprove an eminent historian

Cormac Fitzgerald

A 14 year old American high-school student has called into question the research of a prominent historian who said that ‘No Irish need apply’ signs didn’t exist in the United States.

Professor Richard Jensen published an article in the Journal of Social History in 2002 that called into question the existence of discriminatory ‘no Irish need apply’ (NINA) signs in the 18th and 19th centuries in America.

The signs are frequently used to prove that the Irish were discriminated against when they arrived in the US centuries ago.

But Professor Jensen, who was professor of history at the University of Illinois in Chicago at the time, stated that the existence of the signs was a myth that the Irish had exaggerated, imagining that they were discriminated in the United States more than they were.

The “myth fostered among the Irish a misperception or gross exaggeration that other Americans were prejudiced against them,” Jensen wrote.  

The claim went largely unchallenged until recently when teenager Rebecca Fried decided to start investigating his claims.

Rebecca searched through newspaper databases on the internet and found lots of examples of the signs throughout history.

“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 told the Daily Beast.

“I was really surprised when I started finding examples of NINA ads in old 19th-century newspapers pretty quickly.”

Her research then culminated in her own article in the Journal of Social History which seriously challenged Prof Jensen’s work.

Rebecca’s article has now ignited a serious historical debate and has led many to rethink their stance on the existence of the signs, which she has shown were much more prominent than Prof Jensen had claimed.

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