Holy Cross History Professor Is Leading Voice Nationally on Irish-American History

Edward O'Donnell, associate professor of history. Photo by Tom Rettig

TODAY Show | Washington Post

In this time of divisive rhetoric about recent immigrants and terrorism, Ed O'Donnell, associate professor of history at Holy Cross, says that we can learn a lot from the discarded stereotypes of the past.

In a Washington Post commentary, Professor O'Donnell takes us back to the late 19th century, a time when Irish immigrants were seen as terrorists who threatened U.S. national security.

"That’s right," said O'Donnell. "The immigrant group that today most Americans associate with leprechauns, the Blarney stone and Guinness beer was 150 years ago reviled as a band of foreign terrorists. This teaches us a valuable lesson about stereotyping entire groups based upon the actions of a few — a lesson we should apply to minority groups today."

As a leading voice nationally on Irish-American history, O'Donnell was also recently interviewed by the TODAY Show on the history of St. Patrick's Day.

"St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious holiday," O'Donnell told TODAY. "But over time it has become a universal celebration of ethnic pride and Irish culture."

O’Donnell, a member of the Holy Cross class of 1986, is the author of several books, including "1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish-American History" (Broadway Books, 2002) and "Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age" (Columbia University Press, June 2015). He also hosts a popular podcast, In The Past Lane, exploring various topics in U.S. history.