Blackness and Transatlantic Irish Identity analyzes the long history of imagined and real relationships between the Irish and African-Americans since the mid-nineteenth century in popular culture and literature. Irish writers and political activists have often claimed - and thereby created - a "black" identity to explain their experience with colonialism in Ireland and revere African-Americans as a source of spiritual and sexual vitality. Irish-Americans often resisted this identification so as to make a place for themselves in the U.S. However, their representation of an Irish-American identity pivots on a distinction between Irish-Americans and African-Americans. Lauren Onkey argues that one of the most consistent tropes in the assertion of Irish and Irish-American identity is constructed through or against African-Americans, and she maps that trope in the work of writers Roddy Doyle, James Farrell, Bernard MacLaverty, John Boyle O'Reilly, and Jimmy Breslin; playwright Ned Harrigan; political activists Bernadette Devlin and Tom Hayden; and musicians Van Morrison, U2, and Black 47.
Lauren Onkey is Vice President of Education and Public Programs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Previously she taught literature and cultural studies at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She has published numerous essays on Irish cultural studies and popular music.