“Rulers of the Five Points”: Blacks, Irish Immigrants, and Amalgamation

in In the Shadow of Slavery

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780226317748
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226317755 | DOI:
“Rulers of the Five Points”: Blacks, Irish Immigrants, and Amalgamation

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As New York's abolitionists debated ways to improve the conditions of working-class blacks in the 1840s and 1850s, other groups in the city created a new discourse of poverty, criminality, race, and sexuality that focused on the relationship between the working-class black and Irish communities in the Five Points district of New York City. Proslavery, anti-equality New York journalists and conservative religious reformers depicted interracial sex and socializing, or amalgamation, between working-class blacks and Irish as a major threat to New York's racial and social order. Perhaps fearing a repeat of the 1834 riots, black and white abolitionists largely avoided these discussions. White abolitionists continued their focus on southern slavery as the major race problem in the United States. Black abolitionists of the 1840s and 1850s were embarrassed by the links between blacks, prostitution, and crime in discussions of amalgamation and avoided public discussions of the Five Points.

Keywords: working-class blacks; abolitionists; Five Points; social order; socializing; interracial sex

Chapter.  6350 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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