Noel Ignatiev, scholar who called for abolishing whiteness, dies at 78Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, historians, Noel Ignatiev
Noel Ignatiev, a former steelworker who became a historian known for his work on race and class and his call to abolish “whiteness,” died at Banner-University Medical Center Tucson on Saturday. He was 78. The cause was an intestinal infarction, according to Kingsley Clarke, a longtime friend.
Ignatiev’s best-known book, “How the Irish Became White,” was immediately influential and controversial upon its publication in 1995. It touched off a firestorm of debate at the time at academic conferences and in the pages of newspapers. In time his view that whiteness is a social and political construction — and not a phenomenon with a biological basis — has become mainstream. The resurgence of white identity politics and white nationalism in recent years made Ignatiev’s arguments relevant to a new generation of readers who argued the notion that race is more about power and privilege rather than about ancestry, or even identity.
The book detailed how the Irish, who had first come to North America as indentured servants and were reviled by the more settled populations of English and Dutch Americans, became, by the mid-19th century, accepted as white. Sadly, Ignatiev argued, the Irish became incorporated into whiteness just before the Civil War, through support for slavery and violence against free African Americans. To become white, Ignatiev wrote, did not mean to be middle class, much less rich, but rather to be accepted as equal citizens and to have access to the same neighborhoods, schools and jobs as others.
comments powered by Disqus
- ‘Lock me up’: The last man to be arrested for defying Congress during an investigation
- Faith made Harriet Tubman fearless as she rescued slaves
- A Turkish dam is about to flood one of the oldest continuously settled places on Earth
- Soldiers got Medals of Honor for massacring Native Americans. This bill would take them away.
- UNC Will Give Silent Sam to a Confederate Group — Along With a $2.5-Million Trust
- The Ten Best History Books of 2019
- ‘Well Worth Saving’
- Anne Boleyn Has Had a Bad Reputation for Nearly 500 Years. Hayley Nolan Wants to Change That
- James Grossman Writes Article on Career Diversity: "Revising Revisited: Words Matter When It Comes to Career Diversity"
- Review: A Gospel for the Poor: Global Social Christianity and the Latin American Evangelical Left