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Laying down the law to the Irish and the coons: Stormont's response to American racial segregation in Northern Ireland during the Second World War


  • The author is deeply indebted to Alicja Syska and Richard Huzzey for their comments and suggestions about this article. He is also eternally grateful to those who shared their wartime recollections, but especially Bob Fawcett and John Campbell for their wonderful insights. Capitalization and spelling (for example, ‘Negro’ and ‘coloured’) follow the original source material. The author discusses the interaction between locals and white and African American soldiers in ‘“The Dusky Doughboys”: interaction between African American soldiers and the population of Northern Ireland during the Second World War’, Jour. American Studies (2013), doi:10.1017/S0021875812001764.


This article deals with the response of the Northern Ireland government to the presence of African American troops in the country during the Second World War, using extensive archival research at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, The National Archives at Kew and the National Records and Archives Administration in Maryland. It examines the pressures placed upon Stormont by both Westminster and, more particularly, the American military authorities in relation to U.S. racial mores. It demonstrates that despite edicts from London and attempts by the Americans to impose racial segregation, the Northern Ireland government fashioned a response which did not endorse ‘Jim Crow’ racism but, instead, dealt with the problem pragmatically and thoughtfully.