Obama’s Irish Roots Inspire Other Black Americans

Obama’s Irish Roots Inspire Other Black Americans

The president’s trip to Ireland and his Irish cousin have prompted other Black Americans to try to discover their Irish roots.

Published May 23, 2011

President Obama’s recent trip to Ireland has sparked excitement in both America and abroad. About 40,000 people turned up to hear the president’s speech in Dublin Monday, and it turns out that African-Americans are equally enthusastic about his diplomacy in the Emerald Isle. It turns out that Obama actually has living relatives in Ireland, and his ancestry is prompting more Black Americans to look into their own family trees for Irish branches.


You might be surprised to know that in the 19th century, African-Americans and Irish immigrants married more than other ethnic groups. That resulted in a lot of Blacks now having relatives in far-away Ireland.


In Obama's case, in 1850, a 19-year-old named Falmouth Kearney emigrated from Moneygall, Ireland, to Ohio, where he married a woman named Charlotte Holloway. That young man was Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather. Today, the president’s closest living Irish relative is a 75-year-old woman named Jane de Montmorency Wright. She is Obama’s sixth cousin, three times removed, and she says, “My children are delighted by the connection.”


Spurred on by Obama’s heritage, more and more African-Americans have begun looking into their Irish roots. According to the Irish ancestry company Eneclann, Black Americans now make up about 20 percent of their American clientele. “‘People are being inspired by President Obama’s story to look into their own Irish roots,” said Eneclann’s director.


As more and more people begin looking into their family’s back-story, I can’t help but think we’ll see the scourge of racism gradually erode more than it already has. The plain truth is that hardly anyone in America is “only” one race anymore. For centuries people have been intermingling and sharing their genes. That hardcore racists have yet to understand that shows an upsetting lack of historical knowledge.

(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Written by Cord Jefferson


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