The Great Hunger Memorial, Providence, Rhode Island

A larger-than-life statue of three Irish figures sits on a round stone base, bordered by a walkway that incorporates the donor-bricks and flagstones. The walkway leads to a commemorative wall that narrates the history of the Great Hunger amid Irish immigration. The sidewalk beneath the wall incorporates an outline map depicting the coasts of America and Ireland, emphasizing the courageous journey of the Irish people to the United States. Donor-bricks create an outer semi-circle framing the maps, and flagstones border the sidewalk nearest that runs alongside the river.

The three sculpted figures in the Rhode Island Irish Great Hunger Memorial symbolically commemorate the suffering of the Irish people during the Great Hunger of 1845 to 1851. The sculpture uniquely combines the despair of the past with an enduring sense of optimism that reflects the strength of our ancestors’ immigration and the joy of our achievements in America. The printed history of the Great Hunger, on the third side of the triangle, features vignettes of Irish life at the time of the Hunger. Visitors are able to trace the immigrants’ escape to the new world on horrendous “coffin ships” and visualize their struggle in the American urban crucible as our forebears overcome all adversity to build and shape a new home. The many successes as Irish-Americans are the crowning end to the noble story. The memorial remains an enduring symbol to the tragedy and triumph of victims, survivors, and descendants of the Great Hunger.

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