Does the American North have a racial tradition? Of course it does.
Northern racialists were concentrated in the Democratic Party which was dominated by White Southerners. “The Democracy” was known at the time as the “White Man’s Party.” It existed in both the North and the South and dominated the White Republic until Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln, for example, had been defeated by Stephen Douglas in the Illinois Senate race for being unsound on the racial question. The Republicans were always on the defensive on the race issue because of the strong appeal of white supremacy to Democratic voters.
In the antebellum era, Northern racialists had enjoyed a lot of success in the Lower North. In 1821, New York effectively abolished black suffrage. In 1838, Pennsylvania abolished black suffrage. Free negroes were banned from settling in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Oregon.
In 1860, African-Americans could only vote in five New England states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Elsewhere, Yankees had to coexist with other European ethnic groups like the Scots-Irish, Irish Catholics, the Germans and Scandinavians, who sometimes did not share the Yankee enthusiasm for utopian social reform movements like abolitionism and temperance. Generally speaking, the Germans and Scandivanians tended to be more aligned with them on racial equality issues than the Scots-Irish and the Irish Catholics.
What happened? The Yankee dominated Republican Party triumphed in the North and fomented a war against the South that resulted in the destruction of the Northern black codes.
From Eric Foner’s Reconstruction:
“Nonetheless, the national convention galvanized a black assault upon the Northern color line that, in the war’s final months, won some modest but impressive victories. In February 1865, John S. Rock of Boston became the first black lawyer admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court. (Only eight years earlier, in the Dred Scott case, the Court had denied that any black person could be a citizen of the United States.)
Slowly, the North’s racial barriers began to fall. In 1863, California for the first time permitted blacks to testify in criminal cases; early in 1865 Illinois repealed its law barring blacks from entering the state, serving on juries, or testifying in court, while Ohio eliminated the last of its discriminatory “black laws.” And in May 1865, Massachusetts passed the first comprehensive public accommodations law in American history.
In January, 1865, the issue of segregated transport became a national cause celebre when Robert Smalls, a black war hero, was ejected from a Philadelphia streetcar and forced to walk several miles to the navy yard where the Planter, the ship he had spirited from Charleston harbor nearly three years earlier, was undergoing repairs. Despite concerted pressure by the city’s black and white allies, including banker Jay Cooke, integration did not come to Philadelphia transport until 1867, but New York City, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Cleveland all desegregated their streetcars during the war.”
Who were the Northern Democrats? They tended to be Scots-Irish and Irish Catholics:
“Its greatest strength lay in areas like the “butternut” farming regions of the Ohio Valley, closely tied to the South and bypassed by wartime economic expansion, and among urban Catholic immigrants and other voters hostile to the perfectionist reform tradition, with its impulse toward cultural homogeneity.” …
The Emancipation Proclamation provoked lurid Democratic descriptions of an impending black inudation of the Midwest. In Indiana, one group of Democratic women paraded before an election with banners emblazoned: ” Fathers, save us from nigger husbands.”
Aside from the War Between the States, the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 was the largest civil insurrection in American history. The Irish rose up against the Yankee Republicans and their black allies and were only put down by Union troops who had just arrived from Gettysburg:
“Exposing the class and racial tensions lying just beneath the surface of the city’s life and exacerbated by the war experience, the draft riot haunted New York’s elite long after its suppression, serving as a reminder of the threat posed by a “dangerous class” whose existence could no longer be denied. It spurred efforts by the Union League and other elite organizations to reform city government and strengthen the forces of order, and to improve the conditions of New York’s black population. A number of firms publicly announced their intention to replace Irish workers with blacks, the Union League succeeded in integrating the city’s streetcars, and in March 1864 a massive reception was organized for New York’s black soldiers, an “astonishing” change, observed the New York Times, from the time eight months earlier when “the African race in this city were literally hunted like wild beasts.”
New York City was integrated by the Union League.
The Irish draft riots against African-Americans in New York City would later be repeated in New Orleans and Memphis during Reconstruction. In the movie Gangs of New York, you can see the scene below where the Irish are shot down by the Union Army.
Note: According to Eric Foner, 1/5th of the adult black male population of the United States was armed by Yankees and mobilized to serve in the Union Army. This was America before the Jews started arriving en masse in the 1890s.