I want to call attention to the fact that my friend, Jeff Perry, will be at the Brecht Forum in New York discussing the republication of Theodore Allen’s The Invention of the White Race. Jeff was the editor.
I had the honor and opportunity to have known Ted (as he was widely known) Allen. Ted was the consummate working class historian. An unapologetic leftist, Ted was deeply interested in understanding the forces that have so undermined progressive and radical social movements in the USA. He undertook to study US history and in so doing, ended up studying the colonization of Ireland by the English and the ‘origin’ of race as a social and political construct aimed at both suppressing particular populations (i.e., through colonialism and national oppression) and disorganizing the mass of working people in a capitalist society so as to ensure the continued dominance of the elite.
If you are in NYC, take a few moments and go see Jeff. Regardless of where you are, however, please consider reading Ted’s 2 volume work. I am sure that you will be grabbed by it in much the same way as was I.
The Invention of the White Race
by Theodore W. Allen
Book Launch and Slide Presentation/Talk by Jeffrey B. Perry
for the New Expanded Edition (Verso Books, November 2012)
Hosted by the Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen Society
Thursday, January 31, 2013, 7:30 pm
451 West St. (between Bank and Bethune Sts.)
New York, NY 10014
Theodore W. Allen’s The Invention of the White Race, with its focus on racial oppression and social control, is one of the twentieth-century’s major contributions to historical understanding. This two-volume classic (Vol. 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control and Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America) details how the “white race” was invented as a ruling-class social control formation and a system of racial oppression was imposed in response to labor solidarity in the wake of Bacon’s Rebellion (1676-77), how the “white race” was created and maintained through “white race” privileges conferred on laboring class European-Americans relative to African-Americans, how these privileges were ruinous to the interests of African-Americans and “disastrous” for laboring class European-Americans, and how the “white race” has been the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination in America.
The Invention of the White Race presents a full-scale challenge to what Allen refers to as “The Great White Assumption” – “the unquestioning, indeed unthinking acceptance of the ‘white’ identity of European-Americans of all classes as a natural attribute rather than a social construct.” Its thesis on the origin and nature of the “white race” contains the root of a new and radical approach to United States history, one that challenges master narratives taught in the media and in schools, colleges, and universities. With its equalitarian motif, opposition to white supremacy, and emphasis on class struggle it speaks to people today who strive for change worldwide.
Praise for Allen’s work has been offered from such scholars and labor, left, and anti-white supremacist activists activists as Audrey Smedley, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Tim Wise, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Gene Bruskin, Tami Gold, Muriel Tillinghast, Joe Berry, George Schmidt, Noel Inatiev, Carl Davidson, Mark Solomon, Gerald Horne, Dorothy Salem, Sean Ahern, Wilson Moses, David Roediger Joe Wilson, Charles Lumpkins, Michael Zweig, Margery Freeman, Michael Goldfield, Spencer Sunshine, Ed Peeples, Russell Dale, Gwen-Midlo Hall, Sam Anderson, Gregory Meyerson, Younes Abouyoub, Bruce Nelson, William Carlotti, Peter Bohmer, Dennis O’Neill, Ted Pearson, Juliet Ucelli, Stella Winston, Sean J. Connolly, Vivien Sandlund, Dave Marsh, Russell R. Menard, Jonathan Scott, John D. Brewer, Richard Williams, William L. Vanderburg, Rodney Barker, and Matthew Frye Jacobson. See here and here.
To assist individual readers, classes, and study groups this new expanded edition of Allen’s seminal two-volume “classic” includes new introductions, new appendices with background on Allen and his writings, expanded indexes, and new internal study guides. The study guides follow each volume, chapter-by-chapter, and the indexes also include entries from Allen’s extensive notes based on twenty years of primary research. (Also extremely useful useful for classes and discussion groups is Allen’s online “Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race” available at http://clogic.eserver.org/1-2/allen.html )
The Invention of the White Race should be of special interest to students of U.S. History, Labor History, African-American History, Irish History, Caribbean History, Colonial History, African Diaspora Studies, American Studies, Race and Ethnicity, Political and Economic History, Sociology and Anthropology, and “White Privilege” and “Whiteness” Studies.
Jeffrey B. Perry contributed new introductions, back matter, internal study guides, and expanded indexes to Verso Books’ new expanded edition of The Invention of the White Race. For more information on Dr. Perry and his work on Hubert Harrison “the father of Harlem radicalism” (1883-1927) and Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) see http://www.jeffreybperry.net
For additional information on Theodore W. Allen see here.
“When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no ‘white’ people there; nor, according to the colonial records, would there be for another sixty years.”
Theodore W. Allen
(Written after searching through 885 county-years of Virginia’s colonial records)
The above statement, based on twenty-plus years of research of Virginia’s colonial records, reflected the fact that Allen found “no instance of the official use of the word ‘white’ as a token of social status” prior to its appearance in a Virginia law passed in 1691. As he later explained, “Others living in the colony at that time were English; they had been English when they left England, and naturally they and their Virginia-born children were English, they were not ‘white.’ White identity had to be carefully taught, and it would be only after the passage of some six crucial decades” that the word “would appear as a synonym for European-American.”
Allen was not merely speaking of word usage, however. His probing research led him to conclude – based on the commonality of experience and demonstrated solidarity between African-American and European-American laboring people, the lack of a substantial intermediate buffer social control stratum, and the indeterminate status of African-Americans – that the “white race” was not, and could not have been, functioning in early Virginia.
The Invention of the White Race, especially Volume 2, The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, tells that story. See here for a Table of Contents for Vol. 2 and see here for a Table of Contents for Vol. 1