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Monday, November 30, 2009

The story of the Irish from the heart of Pennsylvania

Irish-American coal miners, railroad engineers, brakemen and firemen: these were the men in my family in the 19th and 20th centuries whose hard work made Pennsylvania and the nation what it is today. Their lives and the times in which they lived must not be forgotten.

I am thrilled to be able to help announce the world premiere of The Irish: Two Nations - One Heart, a three-part documentary series created by PBS station WVIA in Pittston, Pennsylvania. The newest installment of The Extraordinary Journey series which is working to document the rich history of various cultural heritages within Pennsylvania, The Irish is "a unique documentary that for the first time comprehensively chronicles this remarkable regional story." As the WVIA website states, "It is our history, and it serves as an indispensable tool to understand the dramatic past of northeastern Pennsylvania’s vibrant Irish culture and its future in both Pennsylvania and America."

As the introduction to the series states so well, "The industrial revolution in 19th century America produced social and political tumult that forever changed the world. Nowhere would those conflicts resonate more dramatically than in northeastern Pennsylvania, whose immense anthracite coal reserves and rich woodlands fueled America’s ascent as the world’s preeminent superpower. The tide of Irish immigrants that washed ashore clinging to despair and anguish over their own embattled Ireland found no safe harbor. Instead, these people would become girdled by some of the most dramatic social conflicts in American history."

This documentary series works to tell the story of those Irish immigrants, providing "compelling testimony of an extraordinary journey that continues to this day. It explores this region's rich Irish heritage and the obstacles it had to overcome to help build this state and nation."

Although at this time the series is only being broadcast within Pennsylvania, I look forward to seeing it make its way to other states and viewers. It looks to be a well-researched, meaningful look at the complex history of the Irish people in Pennsylvania.

If you are in northeastern Pennsylvania, you can view the premiere of the three-part WVIA original documentary film The Irish: Two Nations - One Heart on Tuesday, December 1 at 8 p.m., followed by part two on Wednesday, December 2 and part three on Thursday, December 3 at 8 p.m. on WVIA-TV. Encore presentations of the documentary will broadcast in its entirety on Saturday, December 5 at 2:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 6 at 12 p.m. on WVIA-TV. I am hoping that this series will also make it way quickly to other PBS stations across the nation.

Note: If you cannot view the film trailer above, you can also view it here or here.

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