Charles Lumpkins “Independent scholar Theodore W. Allen has produced a two-volume tour de force that situates the development of racism, white supremacy, and racial identities in context of the sixteenth and seventeenth century British conquest of Ireland, the Atlantic slave trade, the rise of chattel bond-servitude in the Caribbean and English-speaking North America, and the destruction of Native American societies. More importantly, Allen draws from a wide array of primary sources to reveal the ways the political and economic elites, driven to maintain and expand their social control of laboring people — whether bound or free -- invented the concept of the white race. Allen’s research has profoundly shaped and influenced, often behind the scenes, historians’ debates on American colonial slavery and its connections to racism, white supremacy, and nascent capitalism.” – Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State University, author of American Pogrom: The East St. Louis Race Riot and Black Politics
The Special Shrinkwapped 2 volume set of
The Invention of the White Race
Is Available at Reduced Price
Sean Ahern, Review of Theodore W. Allen’s The Invention of the White Race
, New Expanded Edition, 2 Volumes, Vol. 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control; Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America; Verso Books, in Black Commentator CLICK HERE
Attentive audience members at January 31, 2013, Slide Presentation/Book Talk on the new expanded edition of Theodore W. Allen's The Invention of the White Race
(Verso Books, 2012) at the Brecht Forum in New York City. The event was sponsored by "The Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen Society."
In Volume One of The Invention of the White Race: Racial Oppression and Social Control
, Theodore W. Allen painstakingly sets out the historical precedents, the comparative case studies, the means to dissect threadbare explanations of contemporary racism, and then provides us with nimble heuristic devices to disentangle the snarled derivatives of the white supremacy ideology we face today.
But it is Volume Two (The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America
) which so many of us working on civil rights in the South still carry in our mental knapsack into combat with the remaining diehard Confederistas who continue their sniping at people of color and insinuating their propaganda into the conservative legislative agenda. Volume Two in particular, with its penetrating narrative about the origins of white supremacy and slavery, much of it unfolding in Virginia, is of special inspiration to me and my civil rights comrades in the Old Dominion. It spells out hope and erases all doubt, even among former skeptics, that white supremacy is not an inherent condition, but a cruel contrivance created and nurtured by the powerful few to master the rest of us. And in Ted Allen’s analysis dwells the heartening prospect that this invention, like all such fabrications, can be dismembered and its fragments thrown upon the waste heap of history.
Edward H. Peeples
, Ph.D., Associate Professor Emeritus, Virginia Commonwealth University; Civil rights activist; author, Twentieth Century Scalawag: A White Southerner’s Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism
(in press, UVA Press)
“This ‘modern classic’ presents an essential reconstruction of concepts necessary to any understanding of the Western heritage in the context of World history.” --Wilson J. Moses
, author of The Golden Age of Black Nationalism
“Decades before people made careers ‘undoing racism,’ Ted Allen was working on this trailblazing study, which has become required reading for students of Irish history, race theory, and U.S. labor-capital relations." -- Noel Ignatiev
, co-editor of Race Traitor
, author of How the Irish Became White
“A must read for educators, scholars and social change activist -- now more than ever! Ted Allen’s writings illuminate the centrality of how white supremacy continues to work in maintaining a powerless American working class.” -- Tami Gold
, Professor & Filmmaker, PSC CUNY Chapter Chair, Hunter College
This book makes sense of American history and the American present: race relations in this country and the very concept of "race" itself: how it developed in Virginia in the 17th and early 18th Centuries and how it has played out every since, not only here but in Europe and the rest of the world as well.
The nitty-gritty is in Volume II, examining in detail how contracted servitude in the beginnings of the Virginia colony developed into chattel bondage. Then in the years after Bacon's Rebellion - in which European- and African-descended bond servants made a common cause against their planter masters - the planter class invented "whiteness," dividing the working population into slaves, the Africans, and "whites," the Europeans, an insidious piece of social engineering that created stratum of poor "whites" to control the black slave population, allying that stratum to the planters themselves and against their natural allies, the slaves.
Volume I discusses British oppression and control in Ireland, a very similar system and mechanism but where both oppressor and oppressed were light-skinned Europeans. The latter part of Volume II treats the period right after the Civil War, and how the promise and possibilities embodied in breaking up the plantations and distributing the land to poor whites and former slaves ("forty acres and a mule") were dashed and a new regime of slavery without the name was put in place instead.
“Theodore W. Allen de-mystifies the architecture set by colonial elites to partition the worldviews and the successive political and economic interests of the European and African bond-servants and slave laborers from a period when their circumstances were indistinguishable. This standard has racialized every aspect of American life and consistently oppresses Black people and subjects all working class interests to the will of the ruling elites.” -- Muriel Tillinghast
, SNCC activist and former Green Party candidate for Vice-President of the U.S.
"Theodore Allen spent a good part of his adult life researching and explaining one of the central roots of capitalist exploitation: Race. He shows us with great clarity that this highest form of Organized Crime based on the rationalization and utilization of stolen land, stolen people and exterminated people could and can only work with the invention of a powerfully negative social construct: race centered on white supremacy. Allen's two volume masterpiece -- The Invention of the White Race
-- is vital ammunition for those of us engaged in Revolutionary Change because his work helps to expose the current myth of a post-racial US society/world and reveal the underbelly of a dying capitalism's hyper-racial world of violence, terror and human and natural exploitation." – S. E. Anderson,
, Retired Professor of Mathematics and Black History, author of The Black Holocaust for Beginners
, and Co-Chair of the Brecht Forum/Marxist School
“Theodore W. Allen’s two volume The Invention of the White Race
, is an important book, the most important book on the origin of racism in what was to become the United States—and more important now perhaps than when it was first released in the mid nineties, given the recent attention to what the Occupy movement calls the one percent and Allen calls the ruling class. This book represents Marxist class analysis and comparative historiography at its best. It is a sharp and eminently readable corrective to the post modernist analysis of racism (or ‘race’)—including the majority of books and articles belonging to ‘whiteness’ studies—that still dominates the landscape. Allen’s work is a classic of anti-racist scholarship and Verso is right to re-issue it.” – Gregory Meyerson
, co-editor of the Marxist Online Journal Cultural Logic
“The notion of a ‘post racial’ society today has been obliterated by recurring assaults and killing of African Americans by whites virtually immune from prosecution – echoing the searing racism of the infamous Dred Scott decision that Blacks ‘had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.’ That heinous white supremacy compels a need to understand its historic roots, so essential to fighting it. Theodore Allen’s The Invention of the White Race
is a groundbreaking contribution to that understanding. With exhaustive scholarship, Allen demonstrates that there were no ‘white people’ in the early years of 17th century colonization. After labor unrest shook the Virginia colony, the ruling class responded by inventing the white race replete with ‘white skin privilege.’ It created a lethal means of social control by dividing workers, institutionalizing white supremacy as an historic source of class collaboration – producing the principal retardant to progressive social change. The profound insights in The Invention of the White Race
are essential both to understand the origins and destructiveness of white supremacy and to provide the means to conduct struggle against it. Allen’s study is mandatory reading for everyone concerned with justice, equality and the liberation of all from the binds of white supremacy.” -- Mark Solomon
, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University
“Theodore Allen's The Invention of the White Race
is essential reading for all students of race and power in America. This path-breaking research reframes and cuts across the disciplines of history, sociology and politics, shedding a dynamic new light on the important and often hidden phenomenon of race in America's cultural evolution.” -- Joseph Wilson
, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College
"All of us who work to end racism in the United States owe a debt of gratitude to Theodore Allen. His historical analysis of how Race was created to separate oppressed people from one another so as to maintain white supremacy is essential reading today." -- Margery Freeman
, Trainer/Organizer, The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond
"When I first read Ted Allen's two volumes on racial oppression and white supremacy, the intensity and the integrity of the work took my breath away. As organizers of workers, we cannot effectively counter the depth of white racism in the US if we don’t understand its origin and mechanisms. Ted has figured something out that can guide our work—it’s groundbreaking and it’s eye-opening." -- Gene Bruskin
, Co-Convener U.S. Labor Against the War and Former Director of the Justice@Smithfield Campaign
"Theodore Allen's two-volume The Invention of the White Race is a fundamental work of scholarship on the history and foundation of race, racism, and white-supremacy in the class struggle between Indigenous, African, and European working men and women and the European ruling class of early modern times. The book is indispensable for a genuine understanding of these matters and merits serious study along with the great works of Hubert Harrison, W. E. B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Martin Bernal, and others who have raised our understanding of these issues over the past 100 years. Perry performs a great service in helping to bring these volumes out in a new edition." -- Russell Dale
, Ph.D., Philospher, The Brecht Forum, NYC.
"One of the most important books of U.S. history every written. It illuminates the origins of the largest single obstacle to progressive change and working-class power in the U.S.: racism and white supremacy." -- Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel an Dimed
“In the second volume of this acclaimed study, Allen explores the birth of racism in the American South . . . This, and the first volume of Allen’s study are essential readings for students of U.S. history and politics.” -- David Earl Jackson, Tri-State Defender
“Readers who prefer to study the past in its own terms and who are both accustomed to and comfortable with dispassionate monographs should not be put off by the overtly presentist concerns and polemical style of Theodore W. Allen’s book. The empirical data and analytical perspective challenge established approaches to the economic and social history of seventeenth-century Virginia, particularly to the development of slavery and race prejudice. This is a stimulating volume. Allen is openly anticapitalist and prolabor. Maintaining that he had his consciousness raised by the modern civil rights movement he places class struggle at the center of his inquiry into the origin of racial oppression in Anglo-America.” -- Martin H. Quitt, University of Massachusetts, Boston, in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
"'Whites' are a unique and historically evolved societal category. Racism is their singular, distinctive culture, art, literature, philosophy, science and activity---it is their social being. All of the facets of Allen's life work expressed in The Invention of the White Race are in opposition to both the societal category and the social being as the anathemas to a revolutionary working class movement." -- William C. Carlotti, Worker
“Theodore Allen has produced an intriguing book that will be cited in all future discussions about the origins of racism and slavery in America.” -- Glenn Feldman, University of Alabama at Birmingham, in Labor Studies Journal
“[Allen’s] scholarship frequently is impressive, especially in his log discussion of the breakdown in Virginia of traditional English protections of labor. Certainly, this adds considerably to our understanding of the evolution of bond servitude in this region.” -- Marvin L. Michael Kay, University of Toledo, in Journal of American History
“This is a carefully-researched and extensively-referenced work . . . Its contributions to the debates on notions of a ‘white race’ are unquestionable and its relevance not simply for scholars of American history but for those interested in notions of race and class in any historical and geographical setting is beyond doubt.” -- Kenneth Lunn, University of Portsmouth, in Labour History Review (UK)
"The two-volume work presents a historical treatment of a few precisely defined concepts: of the essential nature of the social control structure of class societies; of racial oppression without reference to 'phenotype' factors; of racial slavery in continental Anglo-America as a particular form of racial oppression; of the 'white race' -- an all-class association of European-Americans held together by 'racial' privileges conferred on laboring-class European-Americans relative to African-Americans -- as the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination of national life." Theodore W. Allen
"Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race" 1998
(with audio, video, photo links)
Life, Legacy & Some Writings
(with audio and video links)
by Hubert H. Harrison
(Diasporic Africa Press)
with a new introduction, biographical sketch, and supplementary notes
by Jeffrey B. Perry