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“The Invention of the White Race”
Volume 2: “The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America”
by Theodore W. Allen
Special Sale for 50% Off

December 19, 2016

Tags: Super Special Sale, Verso Books, 50% off, free shipping, bundled e-book, Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Racial Oppression and Social Control, The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America

“The Invention of the White Race,” Volume 2: “The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America” by Theodore W. Allen is available in a Special Sale for 50% off, with bundled e-book and free shipping from Verso Books till January 1, 2017. This new expanded edition has an internal study guide, a new editor’s introduction, and supplemental notes that are ideal for classroom and/or study group use. See HERE

In Volume II, on "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America," Allen tells the story of the invention of the “white race” in the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Anglo-American plantation colonies. His primary focus is on the pattern-setting Virginia colony, and he pays special attention to the reduction of tenants and wage-laborers in the majority English labor force to chattel bond-servants in the 1620s. In so doing, he emphasizes that this was a qualitative break from the condition of laborers in England and from long established English labor law, that it was not a feudal carryover, that it was imposed under capitalism, and that it was an essential precondition of the emergence of the lifetime hereditary chattel bond-servitude imposed upon African-American laborers under the system of racial slavery. Allen describes how, throughout much of the seventeenth century, the status of African-Americans was indeterminate (because it was still being fought out) and he details the similarity of conditions for African-American and European-American laborers and bond-servants. He also documents many significant instances of labor solidarity and unrest, especially during the 1660s and 1670s. Most important is his analysis of the civil war stage of Bacon’s Rebellion when "foure hundred English and Negroes in Arms" fought together demanding freedom from bondage.

It was in the period after Bacon's Rebellion that the “white race” was invented as a ruling-class social control formation. Allen describes systematic ruling-class policies, which conferred “white race” privileges on European-Americans while imposing harsher disabilities on African-Americans resulting in a system of racial slavery, a form of racial oppression that also imposed severe racial proscriptions on free African-Americans. He emphasizes that when African-Americans were deprived of their long-held right to vote in Virginia and Governor William Gooch explained in 1735 that the Virginia Assembly had decided upon this curtailment of the franchise in order "to fix a perpetual Brand upon Free Negros & Mulattos," it was not an "unthinking decision." Rather, it was a deliberate act by the plantation bourgeoisie and was a conscious decision in the process of establishing a system of racial oppression, even though it entailed repealing an electoral principle that had existed in Virginia for more than a century.

The key to understanding racial oppression, Allen argues, is in the formation of the intermediate social control buffer stratum, which serves the interests of the ruling class. In the case of racial oppression in Virginia, any persons of discernible non-European ancestry after Bacon's Rebellion were denied a role in the social control buffer group, the bulk of which was made up of laboring-class "whites." In the Anglo-Caribbean, by contrast, under a similar Anglo- ruling elite, "mulattos" were included in the social control stratum and were promoted into middle-class status. For Allen, this was the key to understanding the difference between Virginia’s ruling-class policy of “fixing a perpetual brand” on African-Americans, and the policy of the West Indian planters of formally recognizing the middle-class status “colored” descendant and other Afro-Caribbeans who earned special merit by their service to the regime. This difference, between racial oppression and national oppression, was rooted in a number of social control-related factors, one of the most important of which was that in the West Indies there were “too few” poor and laboring-class Europeans to embody an adequate petit bourgeoisie, while in the continental colonies there were '’too many’' to be accommodated in the ranks of that class.

The references to an “unthinking decision” and “too few” poor and laboring class Europeans are consistent with Allen's repeated efforts to challenge what he considered to be the two main arguments that undermine and disarm the struggle against white supremacy in the working class: (1) the argument that white supremacism is innate, and (2) the argument that European-American workers “benefit” from “white race” privileges and that it is in their interest not to oppose them and not to oppose white supremacy. These two arguments, opposed by Allen, are related to two master historical narratives rooted in writings on the colonial period. The first argument is associated with the “unthinking decision” explanation for the development of racial slavery offered by historian Winthrop D. Jordan in his influential, White Over Black. The second argument is associated with historian Edmund S. Morgan’s similarly influential, American Slavery, American Freedom, which maintains that, as racial slavery developed, “there were too few free poor [European-Americans] on hand to matter.” Allen’s work directly challenges both the “unthinking decision” contention of Jordan and the “too few free poor” contention of Morgan.

Allen convincingly argues that the “white race” privileges conferred by the ruling class on European-Americans were not only ruinous to the interests of African-Americans; they were also against the class interest of European-American workers. He further argues that these “white-skin privileges” are “the incubus that for three centuries has paralyzed” the will of European-American workers “in defense of their class interests vis-à-vis those of the ruling class.”

With its meticulous primary research, equalitarian motif, emphasis on the class struggle dimension of history, and groundbreaking analysis The Invention of the White Race is a recognized classic. Allen felt that its theory on the origin and nature of the “white race” contains the root of a new and radical approach to United States history. Readers will find that it has profound implications for American History, African-American History, Labor History, American Studies, and “Whiteness” Studies and that it offers important insights in the areas of Caribbean History, Irish History, and African Diaspora Studies. Its influence will continue to grow in the twenty-first century.

For a Table of Contents and comments by scholars and activists see HERE

For a slide presentation/talk viewed by over 103,000 people on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race,” at the Brecht Forum in New York see HERE

For a recent presentation on “Theodore W. Allen and ‘The Invention of the White Race’” at a “Multiracial Organizing Conference” in Greensboro, NC see HERE


“The Invention of the White Race”
Volume 1: “Racial Oppression and Social Control”
by Theodore W. Allen
Special Sale for 50% Off

December 19, 2016

Tags: Super Special Sale, Verso Books, 50% off, free shipping, bundled e-book, Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Racial Oppression and Social Control, The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America

“The Invention of the White Race,” Volume 1: “Racial Oppression and Social Control” by Theodore W. Allen is available in a Special Sale for 50% off, with bundled e-book and free shipping from Verso Books till January 1, 2017. This new expanded edition has an internal study guide, a new editor’s introduction, and supplemental notes that are ideal for classroom and/or study group use. See HERE

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, first published in 1994 and 1997, 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 and emphasis on class struggle it speaks to people today who strive for change worldwide. Its influence on our understanding of American, African American, and labor history will continue to grow in the twenty-first century.

Readers of the first edition of The Invention of the White Race were startled by Allen’s bold assertion on the back cover: “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.” That 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.

It is in the context of such findings that he offers his major thesis -- the “white race” was invented as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor solidarity as manifested in the later, civil war stages of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77). To this he adds two important corollaries: 1) the ruling elite, in its own class interest, deliberately instituted a system of racial privileges to define and maintain the “white race” and 2) the consequences were not only ruinous to the interests of African-Americans, they were also “disastrous” for European-American workers, whose class interests differed fundamentally from those of the ruling elite.

In developing these theses Allen challenges the two main ideological props of white supremacy – the notion that “racism” is innate, and it is therefore useless to struggle against it, and the argument that European-American workers benefit from “white race” privileges and that it is in their interest not to oppose them and not to oppose white supremacy.

His challenge to these ideological props of white supremacy is both historical and theoretical. Allen offers meticulous use of sources, probing analysis of “Racial Oppression and Social Control” (the sub-title of this volume), and important comparative study that includes analogies, parallels, and differences between the Anglo-American plantation colonies, Ireland, and the Anglo-Caribbean colonies. He chooses these examples, all subjected to domination by Anglo ruling elites, in order to show that racial oppression is a system of social control not based on phenotype (skin color, etc.) and to show that social control factors impact how racial oppression begins, is maintained, and can be transformed.

A major purpose for his writing Volume I was to lay the conceptual groundwork for Volume II free of what he refers to as the “White Blindspot” -- the hindered vision caused by the “historically omnipresent factor of white supremacism in United States history” that W. E. B. Du Bois “warned us about in Black Reconstruction.” To work free of that blindspot Allen uses the approach in Volume I of “looking into an Irish mirror for insights into the nature of racial oppression and its implication for ruling-class social control in the United States.”

Allen begins his wide-ranging first volume by offering a critical examination of the two main historiographical positions on the slavery and racism debate. He addresses and strongly criticizes the psycho-cultural approach, and he seeks to free the socio-economic approach from certain weaknesses. He then proceeds, using that “mirror of Irish history,” to develop a definition of racial oppression in terms of social control; a definition that is “free of the howling absurdities of ‘phenotype,’ or classification by complexion.” In the process Allen offers compelling analogies between the oppression of the Irish in Ireland (under Anglo-Norman rule and under “Protestant Ascendancy”) and white supremacist oppression of African Americans and Indians. He also shows the relativity of race by examining the sea-change in which Irish haters of racial oppression in Ireland were transformed into “white American” defenders of racial slavery and racial oppression.

In the course of his treatment Allen emphasizes that maximizing profit and maintaining social control are two priority tasks of the ruling class. He also offers a comparison of the different outcomes of “Catholic Emancipation” (outside of Ulster) in Ireland and “Negro Emancipation” in America. The difference centers upon what group is the key component incorporated into the ruling class’s intermediate social control stratum to serve its interests. In Ireland (outside of Ulster) it was the Catholic bourgeoisie, in the United States it was the “white race,” composed primarily of laboring people who were not promoted out of their class. The first outcome, in which members of the oppressed group are incorporated into the social control stratum, he describes as national oppression. The second outcome, in which members of the oppressed group are excluded from the social control stratum and denied normal class mobility, he describes as racial oppression.

In discussing the topics of this volume’s subtitle, Racial Oppression and Social Control, Allen emphasizes that racial oppression is one form of ruling class response to the problem of social control; national oppression is another. . . .

With stunning international and domestic examples Allen shows how racial oppression (particularly in the form of religio-racial oppression) was developed and maintained by the phenotypically-similar British against the Irish Catholics in Ireland; how the phenotypically-similar Anglo bourgeoisie established national oppression in the Anglo-Caribbean and racial oppression in the continental Anglo-American plantation colonies; how racial oppression was transformed into national oppression due to ruling class social control needs in Ireland (while racial oppression was maintained in Ulster); how the same people who were victims of racial oppression in Ireland became “white American” defenders of racial oppression; and how in America racial oppression took the form of racial slavery, yet when racial slavery ended racial oppression remained and was re-constituted in new form.

For a Table of Contents and comments by scholars and activists see HERE

For a slide presentation/talk viewed by over 103,000 people on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race,” at the Brecht Forum in New York see HERE

For a recent presentation on “Theodore W. Allen and ‘The Invention of the White Race’” at a “Multiracial Organizing Conference” in Greensboro, NC see HERE

Hubert Harrison
Growing Appreciation for this Giant of Black History
December 17 Marks the 89th Anniversary of His Death

December 17, 2016

Tags: Hubert Harrison, Hubert H. Harrison, J. A. Rogers, A. Philip Ramdolph, Marcus Garvey, Socialist Party, New Negro Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, touchstone, Columbia University Press, Wesleyan University Press, When Africa Awakes, The Inside Story of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World, St. Croix, A Hubert Harrison Reader, Diasporic Africa Press, December 17, death, radical internationalist, New Negro, Voice, Negro World, touchstone



Hubert Harrison (1883-1927), the “father of Harlem radicalism” and founder of the militant “New Negro Movement,” is a giant of our history. He was extremely important in his day and his significant contributions and influence are attracting increased study and discussion today. On the anniversary of his December 17, 1927, death let us all make a commitment to learn more about the important struggles that he and others waged. Let us also commit to share this knowledge with others.


Harrison was born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies, on April 27, 1883, to a laboring-class Bajan mother and a born-enslaved, plantation-laboring Crucian father. He arrived in New York as a seventeen-year-old orphan in 1900. He made his mark in the United States by struggling against class and racial oppression, by helping to create a remarkably rich and vibrant intellectual life among African Americans and by working for the enlightened development of the lives of those he affectionately referred to as “the common people.” He consistently emphasized the need for working class people to develop class-consciousness; for “Negroes” to develop race consciousness, self-reliance, and self-respect; and for all those he reached to challenge white supremacy and develop an internationalist spirit and modern, scientific, critical, and independent thought as a means toward liberation.


A self-described “radical internationalist,” Harrison was extremely well-versed in history and events in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, the Mideast, the Americas, and Europe and he wrote voluminously and lectured indoors and out on these topics. More than any other political leader of his era, he combined class-consciousness and anti-white supremacist race consciousness in a coherent political radicalism. He opposed capitalism and imperialism and maintained that white supremacy was central to capitalist rule in the United States. He emphasized that “politically, the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea”; that “as long as the Color Line exists, all the perfumed protestations of Democracy on the part of the white race” were “downright lying” and “the cant of ‘Democracy’” was “intended as dust in the eyes of white voters”; that true democracy and equality for “Negroes” implied “a revolution . . . startling even to think of,” and that “capitalist imperialism which mercilessly exploits the darker races for its own financial purposes is the enemy which we must combine to fight.”


Working from this theoretical framework, he was active with a wide variety of movements and organizations and played signal roles in the development of what were, up to that time, the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the “New Negro”/Garvey movement) in U.S. history. His ideas on the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy anticipated the profound transformative power of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation struggles of the 1960s and his thoughts on “democracy in America” offer penetrating insights on the limitations and potential of America in the twenty-first century.


Harrison served as the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday; he founded the first organization (the Liberty League) and the first newspaper (The Voice) of the militant, World War I-era “New Negro” movement; edited The New Negro: A Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort (“intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races -- especially of the Negro race”) in 1919; wrote When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World in 1920; and he served as the editor of the Negro World and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920.



His views on race and class profoundly influenced a generation of “New Negro” militants including the class radical Randolph and the race radical Garvey. Considered more race conscious than Randolph and more class conscious than Garvey, Harrison is the key link in the ideological unity of the two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement -- the labor and civil rights trend associated with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the race and nationalist trend associated with Malcolm X. (Randolph and Garvey were, respectively, the direct links to King marching on Washington, with Randolph at his side, and to Malcolm (whose father was a Garveyite preacher and whose mother wrote for the Negro World), speaking militantly and proudly on street corners in Harlem.

Harrison was not only a political radical, however. Rogers described him as an “Intellectual Giant and Free-Lance Educator,” whose contributions were wide-ranging, innovative, and influential. He was an immensely skilled self-educated lecturer (for the New York City Board of Education) who spoke and/or read six languages; a highly praised journalist, critic, and book reviewer (who reportedly started "the first regular book-review section known to Negro newspaperdom"); a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; and a bibliophile and library builder and popularizer who was an officer of the committee that helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into what has become known as the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.


Hubert Harrison was truly extraordinary and people are encouraged to learn about and discuss his life and work and to Keep Alive the Struggles and Memory of this Giant of Black History.

Additional Information

For comments from scholars and activists on Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) see HERE
and see
HERE

For information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press) see HERE

For information on the new, expanded, Diasporic Africa Press edition of Hubert H. Harrison's “When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World” see HERE

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison see HERE

For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison at the Dudley Public Library, Roxbury, Mass. filmed by Boston Neighborhood News TV see HERE

For a NEW VIDEO of a Slide Presentation/Talk on HUBERT HARRISON the “Father of Harlem Radicalism” for the St. Croix Landmarks Society see
HERE (Note: The slides are very clear.)

Hubert Harrison:
The Voice of
Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918

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