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Theodore W. Allen
Born 97 Years Ago
Offers Important Insights On
The Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy

August 23, 2016

Tags: Theodore W. Allen, Ted Allen, Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy, autodidact, anti-white supremacist, working class, intellectual class struggle, white skin privilege, Indianapolis, Verso Books, The Invention of the White Race, Bacon's Rebellion, Solidarity forever means Privileges never, racial oppression, social control, white identity

Theodore W. Allen
Born 97 Years Ago
Offers Important Insights on
The Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy


Theodore W. Allen (August 23, 1919 – January 19, 2005), an autodidactic, anti-white supremacist working class intellectual and activist who pioneered a class struggle-based “white skin privilege” analysis in the mid-1960s and authored the seminal two-volume history The Invention of the White Race was born 97 years ago in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The "Introduction" to Volume I of the new expanded 2012 Verso Books edition of The Invention of the White Race explains:

Theodore W. Allen's The Invention of the White Race, with its focus on social control and the nature of racial oppression, is one of the twentieth-century's major contributions to historical understanding. This two-volume work, first published in 1994 and 1997, and considered a "classic" by 2003, presents a full-scale challenge to what Allen refers to as "The Great White Assumption"--the unquestioning acceptance of the "white race" and "white" identity as skin color-based and natural attributes rather than as social and political constructions. Its thesis on the origin and nature of the so-called "white race" contains the root of a new and radical approach to United States history, one that challenges dominant narratives taught in schools, colleges, universities, and the media. With its equalitarian motif and emphasis on the class struggle dimension of history it contributes mightily to our understanding of American, African American, and Labor History and it speaks to people desiring and struggling for change worldwide. Its influence can be expected to continue to grow in the twenty-first century.

Readers of the first volume of Invention were startled by Allen's bold, back-cover assertion that "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 20-plus years of primary research in 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 that--based on the commonality of experience, the demonstrated solidarity between African-American and European-American laboring people, and the indeterminate status of African-Americans--the "white race" was not, and could not have been, functioning in early Virginia.

It is in this context that he offers his major thesis -- that the "white race" was invented as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor solidarity as manifested in the latter (civil war) stages of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77). To this he adds two important corollaries: 1) the ruling elite deliberately instituted a system of racial privileges to define and maintain the "white race" and to implement a system of racial oppression, and 2) the consequence was not only ruinous to the interests of the African-American workers, but was also disastrous for European-American workers.

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 challenge it) and the argument that European-American workers benefit from "white race" privileges and white supremacy (and that it is therefore in their interest not to oppose them).

His challenge is both historical and theoretical. He counters these arguments through meticulous use of sources, through probing analysis of "Racial Oppression and Social Control" (the sub-title of this volume), and through important comparative study that offers analogies, parallels, and differences between the Anglo-American plantation colonies, Ireland, and the Anglo-Caribbean colonies. Allen 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, or skin color, and to show how social control factors impact how racial oppression begins and how it can be maintained, transformed, or ended.
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The article "The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy" (Cultural Logic," 2010) describes (with documentation) key components of Allen's analysis of "white race" privilege:

As he developed the "white race" privilege concept, Allen emphasized that these privileges were a "poison bait" and explained that they "do not permit" the masses of European American workers nor their children "to escape" from that class. "It is not that the ordinary white worker gets more than he must have to support himself," but "the Black worker gets less than the white worker." By, thus "inducing, reinforcing and perpetuating racist attitudes on the part of the white workers, the present-day power masters get the political support of the rank-and-file of the white workers in critical situations, and without having to share with them their super profits in the slightest measure." As one example, to support his position Allen would provide statistics showing that in the South where race privilege "has always been most emphasized...the white workers have fared worse than the white workers in the rest of the country."

Probing more deeply, Allen offered an additional important insight into why these race privileges are conferred by the ruling class. He pointed out that "the ideology of white racism" is "not appropriate to the white workers" because it is "contrary to their class interests." Because of this "the bourgeoisie could not long have maintained this ideological influence over the white proletarians by mere racist ideology." Under these circumstances white supremacist thought is "given a material basis in the form of the deliberately contrived system of race privileges for white workers."

Allen added, "the white supremacist system that had originally been designed in around 1700 by the plantation bourgeoisie to protect the base, the chattel bond labor relation of production" also served "as a part of the 'legal and political' superstructure of the United States government that, until the Civil War, was dominated by the slaveholders with the complicity of the majority of the European-American workers." Then, after emancipation, "the industrial and financial bourgeoisie found that it could be serviceable to their program of social control, anachronistic as it was, and incorporated it into their own 'legal and political' superstructure."

Allen felt that two essential points must be kept in mind. First, "the race-privilege policy is deliberate bourgeois class policy." Second, "the race-privilege policy is, contrary to surface appearance, contrary to the interests, short range as well as long range interests of not only the Black workers but of the white workers as well." He repeatedly emphasized that "the day-to-day real interests" of the European American worker "is not the white skin privileges, but in the development of an ever-expanding union of class conscious workers."

Allen made clear what he understood as the "interests of the working class" and referred to Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto: "1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole." He elsewhere pointed out, "The Wobblies caught the essence of it in their slogan: 'An injury to one is an injury to all.'"

Throughout his work Allen emphasizes, "that the initiator and the ultimate guarantor of the white skin privileges of the white worker is not the white worker, but the white worker's masters" and the masters do this because it is "an indispensable necessity for their continued class rule." He describes how "an all-pervasive system of racial privileges was conferred on laboring-class European-Americans, rural and urban, exploited and insecure though they themselves were" and how "its threads, woven into the fabric of every aspect of daily life, of family, church, and state, have constituted the main historical guarantee of the rule of the 'Titans,' damping down anti-capitalist pressures, by making 'race, and not class, the distinction in social life.'" That, "more than any other factor," he argues, "has shaped the contours of American history--from the Constitutional Convention of 1787 to the Civil War, to the overthrow of Reconstruction, to the Populist Revolt of the 1890s, to the Great Depression, to the civil rights struggle and 'white backlash' of our own day."

Based on his research Allen wrote, "history has shown that the white-skin privilege does not serve the real interests of the white workers, it also shows that the concomitant racist ideology has blinded them to that fact." He emphasized, "'Solidarity forever!' means 'Privileges never!'"

It is hoped that these brief remarks will lead more people to explore the work of Theodore W. Allen.

For writings, videos, and audios by and about Theodore W. Allen CLICK HERE

For information on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” Volume II: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America" (including comments from scholars and activists, Table of Contents, and an overview of the volume) CLICK HERE Note – the new, expanded Verso Books edition of this volume includes new introductions and notes, an expanded index, and a lengthy and detailed internal study guide.

For information on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” Volume I: “Racial Oppression and Social Control" (including comments from scholars and activists, Table of Contents, and an overview of the volume) CLICK HERE Note – the new, expanded Verso Books edition of this volume includes new introductions and notes, an expanded index, and a lengthy and detailed internal study guide.

Recommended Summer Reading
Recommended Summer Viewing
On Hubert Harrison
and Theodore W. Allen

July 3, 2016

Tags: Recommended Summer Reading, Theodore W. Allen, Black Radicalism, African American History, Labor History, American History, U.S. History, Non-Fiction, Freethought, Origin, Racial Oppression, Anglo-America, Recommended Summer Viewing, Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, autodidact, anti-white supremacist, white privilege, white skin privilege, whiteness, Bacon's Rebellion, slavery, chattel bond-servitude, working class, intellectuals, Hubert H. Harrison, Ted Allen, twentieth century, race, class, A Hubert Harrison Reader, Wesleyan University Press, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, Columbia University Press, When Africa Awakes, The Inside Story, Stirrings and Strivings, New Negro, Western World, Diasporic Africa Press, Developing Conjuncture, Insights, Centrality, Fight, struggle, Against White Supremacy, The Invention of the White Race, Racial Oppression, Social Control, Verso Books, Dudley Branch, Boston Public Library, Roxbury, Massachusetts, Brecht Forum, New York City, Multiracial Organizing Conference, Greensboro, NC



Recommended Summer Reading
Recommended Summer Viewing
On Hubert Harrison
and Theodore W. Allen

Important summer reading and viewing -- The autodidactic, anti-white supremacist, working-class intellectuals Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen are two of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers on race and class. The following readings and videos are recommended:

“A Hubert Harrison Reader” ed. with an introduction and notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Wesleyan University Press) CLICK HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry, “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE

Hubert H. Harrison, “When Africa Awakes: The ‘Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World,” edited with an introduction and notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Diasporic Africa Press) CLICK HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry, “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” (which offers the fullest treatment of the development of Allen’s thought -- CLICK HERE

Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race” Volume 1: “Racial Oppression and Social Control," edited with an introduction and notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Verso Books), CLICK HERE

Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race,” Volume 2: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America," CLICK HERE

“Hubert Harrison,” video of a slide presentation/talk by Jeffrey B. Perry at the Dudley Branch of the Boston Public Library in Roxbury, Massachusetts on February 15, 2014, CLICK HERE

“Theodore W. Allen’s ‘The Invention of the White Race’" by Jeffrey B. Perry at the Brecht Forum in New York City CLICK HERE

“Theodore W. Allen and ‘The Invention of the White Race’” video of 2016 slide presentation/talk by Jeffrey B. Perry at a “Multiracial Organizing Conference” against white supremacy in Greensboro, NC CLICK HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry, “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” (which offers the fullest treatment of the development of Allen’s thought) http://www.jeffreybperry.net (at Top Left) or see http://clogic.eserver.org/2010/2010.html

April 27 is the Birthday of Hubert Harrison
Share Information on the Life and Work of This Giant of Black History

April 26, 2016

Tags: April 27, Birthday, Hubert Harrison, Hubert H. Harrison, Hubert Henry Harrison, #hubertharrison, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Jeffrey B. Perry, Harlem, working class, writer, orator, educator, critic, political activist, book reviewer, Joel A. Rogers, World’s Great Men of Color, autodidact, foremost Afro-American intellect, A. Philip Randolph, father of Harlem radicalism, radical internationalist, race, class, New Negro, class radical, race radical, Marcus Garvey, race-conscious, class-conscious, two great trends, Black Liberation Movement, labor/civil rights trend, Martin Luther King, Jr., race/nationalist, Malcolm X, Socialist Party, Paterson silk workers strike, soapbox orator, New York Times, Broad and Wall Streets, New York Stock Exchange, socialism, Occupy Wall Street, Liberty League, The Voice, pogrom, East St. Louis, Illinois, Ferguson, Missouri, Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort, international consciousness, darker races, Negro race. Negro World, Mrcus Garvey, When Africa Awakes, Inside Story, Stirrings and Strivings, New Negro in the Western World, lists, course, syllabus, library, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918


April 27 is the Birthday of Hubert Harrison
Share Information on the Life and Work of This Giant of Black History


Hubert Henry Harrison (April 27, 1883–December 17, 1927) was a brilliant, St. Croix, Virgin Islands-born, Harlem-based, working-class, writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist. Historian Joel A. Rogers in “World’s Great Men of Color” said that the autodidactic Harrison was “perhaps the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time.” A. Philip Randolph called him “the father of Harlem radicalism.”

Harrison was a “radical internationalist” and his views on race and class profoundly influenced a generation of "New Negro" militants including the class radical Randolph and the race radical Marcus Garvey. Considered more race-conscious than Randolph and more class-conscious than Garvey, Harrison is a key link in the two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement -- the labor/civil rights trend associated with Randolph and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the race/nationalist trend associated with Garvey and Malcolm X.

Harrison was the leading Black activist in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday and the only Black speaker at the historic Paterson silk workers strike of 1913.

He was an extraordinary soapbox orator and the New York Times described how he spoke at Broad and Wall Streets in front of the New York Stock Exchange on socialism for over three hours to an audience that extended as far as his voice could reach (in a clear precursor to “Occupy Wall Street”).

In 1917 Harrison founded the first organization, the Liberty League, and the first newspaper, The Voice, of the militant "New Negro Movement.” That year he also led a giant Harlem rally that protested the white supremacist “pogrom” on the African American community of East St. Louis, Illinois (which is only twelve miles from Ferguson, Missouri).

In 1919 Harrison 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 1920 he served as editor of the "Negro World" and as the principal radical influence on the Marcus Garvey movement. Toward the end of that year he published his second book, When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World.

People are encouraged to include Hubert Harrison in their readings, study, course lists, and courses and to encourage public, private, and school libraries to include books by and about him in their collections.

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

For a link to the Hubert H. Harrison Papers at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library CLICK HERE

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

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

For information on the new, Diasporic Africa Press expanded 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” CLICK HERE

For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

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

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