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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

“The Plantation of Bondage” -- Presentation on Chapters 4-6 of Theodore W. Allen's The Invention of the White Race, Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America


The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, the second volume of The Invention of the White Race (new edition, Verso Books, 2012) by Theodore W. Allen, will be discussed this Friday night, March 15, 2013 at 7:30 PM (and for the next three Fridays) by Jeffrey B. Perry at the Brecht Forum, 451 West St., NY in a program hosted by the Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen Society.

Allen’s work details the invention of the “white race” and the development of racial slavery, a particular form of racial oppression, in late 17th and early 18th-century Virginia. This week’s presentation will focus on Volume 2, Section Two, “The Plantation of Bondage” and will discuss Chapters 4 (“The Fateful Addiction to ‘Present Profit'”), 5 (“The Massacre of the Tenantry”), and 6 (“Bricks Without Straw: Bondage But No Intermediate Stratum”).

People in the New York area are encouraged to attend. Please share this information with those who might be interested!

For information on The Invention of the White Race vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America (including a Table of Contents of the volume) CLICK HERE

For information on the Brecht Forum series CLICK HERE
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The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-AmericaVol. II of Theodore W. Allen's The Invention of the White RacePresentation by Jeffrey B. PerryFriday, March 8, 2013, 7:30PMBrecht Forum, New York


The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, the second volume of The Invention of the White Race (new edition, Verso Books, 2012) by Theodore W. Allen, will be discussed this Friday night, March 8, 2013 at 7:30 PM (and for the next four Fridays) by Jeffrey B. Perry at the Brecht Forum, 451 West St., NY in a program hosted by the Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen Society. Allen’s work details the invention of the “white race” and the development of racial slavery, a particular form of racial oppression, in late 17th and early 18th-century Virginia. People in the New York area are encouraged to attend. Please share this information with those who might be interested!


“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


That arresting statement, printed on the back cover of the first volume of The Invention of the White Race by Allen in 1994 reflected the fact that, after twenty-plus years of research in Virginia’s colonial records, he found “no instance of the official use of the word ‘white’ as a token of social status” prior to its appearance in a 1691 law. As he 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.”

In The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America Allen elaborates on his findings in order to develop the ground-breaking thesis that 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 (1676-7). To this he adds two important corollaries: 1) the ruling elite, in its own class interest, deliberately instituted a system of racial privileges in order to define and establish the “white race” and establish a system of racial oppression, and 2) the consequences were not only ruinous to the interests of African-Americans, but was also “disastrous” for the European-American workers.

Allen focuses on the pattern-setting Virginia colony in the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Anglo-American plantation colonies. He discusses the reduction of tenants and wage-laborers to chattel bond-servants in the 1620s and explains 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 in this respect 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 [in Virginia] 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. The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America has profound implications for American History, African-American History, Labor History, American Studies, and “Whiteness” Studies and it offers important insights in the areas of Caribbean History and African Diaspora Studies. Its influence will continue to grow in the twenty-first century.

For information on The Invention of the White Race vol. 2 The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America (including a Table of Contents of the volume) CLICK HERE

For information on the Brecht Forum series CLICK HERE
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Slide Presentation/Book Talk on "The Invention of the White Race, Social Control, and The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America” -- Talk by Jeffrey B. Perry based on the work of Theodore W. Allen

Slide Presentation/Book Talk on
"The Invention of the White Race, Social Control, and The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America”
A presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry
based on the new, expanded edition of
Theodore W. Allen’s The Invention of the White Race
For information on hosting a slide presentation/book talk contact jeffreybperry@gmail.com

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. Its two volumes (Racial Oppression and Social Control and The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America) emphasize the centrality of struggle against white supremacy to efforts at social change and present 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.”

Readers of the first edition of The Invention of the White Race (in 1994) 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 – that 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 deliberately instituted a system of racial privileges to define and maintain the “white race” and implement a system of “racial oppression” and 2) the consequences were not only ruinous to African-Americans, they were also “disastrous” for European-American workers.

In the course of discussing these topics Allen, in Volume I, reviews the history of the debate over "Which came first – racism or slavery?" He uses the mirror of Irish history for a definition of racial oppression and for an explanation of the phenomenon in terms of social control, rather than phenotype, or classification by complexion. Compelling analogies are presented between the oppression of the Irish, in Ireland, and white supremacist oppression of Indians and African-Americans. Examples are offered to show that racial oppression is a deliberate ruling-class social control policy that differs from national oppression in terms of the recruitment of the intermediate social control buffer. Examination of similarities and differences in the social control systems developed in the Anglo-American plantation colonies, the Anglo-Caribbean, and Ireland show how racial oppression may, or may not be, replaced by national oppression under the same ruling class. In addition, Allen shows the “relativity of race” in the “sea-change” by which Irish haters of racial oppression in Ireland were transformed into opponents of Abolitionism and supporters of racial oppression in America.

With the conceptual groundwork laid, free of the “White Blindspot,” Allen focuses, in Volume Two, on the plantation colonies of Anglo-America during the period from the founding of Jamestown to the cancellation of the original ban on slavery in the colony of Georgia in 1750. He pays particular attention to the pivotal events of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 and the 1705 revisal of Virginia laws, particularly the “Act concerning Servants and Slaves.” He also discusses the English background, the origin and peculiarities of Virginia’s original plantation labor supply, and the implications for the evolution of the bond-labor system in Anglo-America; why the Spanish example could not be followed in regard to the labor force; the consequence of the economic addiction to tobacco; the chattellization of labor; the oppression and resistance of the bond-laborers, African-Americans and European-Americans, together; the growing interest on the part of the Anglo-American continental plantation bourgeoisie in reducing African-Americans to lifetime, hereditary bond-servitude; the John Punch and Elizabeth Key cases; the divided mind of the English law on the enslavability of Christians; the sharpening class struggle - in the absence of a system of racial oppression - between the plantation elite on the one hand, and the debt-burdened small planters and the majority of the economically productive population, the bond-laborers, three-fourths English, one-fourth African-American; the dispute over “Indian policy” between “frontier” planters and the ruling elite; the eruption of the social contradictions in Bacon’s Rebellion, in which the main rebel force came to be made up of English and African-American bond-laborers, together demanding an end to bond-servitude; the defeat of the rebels, followed by a period of continued instability of social control; apprehension of a recurrence of rebellion; the social control-problem in attempting to exploit newly-gained African sources of labor by reducing African-Americans to life-time, hereditary bondage, especially considering the refuge available for escaping bond-laborers in the mountains at the back of the colonies, and in a continent beyond; the invention of the white race - as the solution to the problem of social control, its failure in the British West Indies, its establishment in the continental plantation colonies, signaled by the enactment of “Act concerning Servants and Slaves,” which formally instituted the system of privileges for European-Americans, of even the lowest social status, vis-à-vis any person of any degree of African ancestry, not only bond-laborers, but “free Negroes,” as well; the remolding of male supremacy as white-male supremacy as an essential element of the system of white-skin privileges; the creation of white male privileges with regard to African-American women; and how the “Ordeal of Colonial Virginia” gave birth to the Ordeal of America.

Invention’s thesis on the origin and nature of the “white race” and the origin of the system of racial oppression in Anglo-America 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 egalitarian motif, focus on class struggle, and emphasis on the centrality of struggle against white supremacy it contributes significantly to our understanding of American History, African American History, and Labor History and speaks to people today who strive for change worldwide. Its influence will continue to grow in the twenty-first century.
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Just Published -- The New Expanded Edition of "The Invention of the White Race" (2 vols.) by Theodore W. Allen. Introduction by Jeffrey B. Perry. From Verso Books.



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.

Please read the extraordinary praise 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, Wilson Moses, David Roediger Joe Wilson, Charles Lumpkins, Michael Zweig, Margery Freeman, Michael Goldfield, Spencer Sunshine, Ed Peeples, Russell Dale, Gwen-Midlo Hall, Sean Ahern, Sam Anderson, Gregory Meyerson, Younes Abouyoub, 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. Click Here to read these comments

Table of Contents for Vol. 2
"The Invention of the White Race: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America"


Introduction to the Second Edition [by Jeffrey B. Perry]

PART ONE: Labor Problems of the European Colonizing Powers
1. The Labor Supply Problem: England a Special Case
2. English Background, with Anglo-American Variations Noted
3. Euro-Indian Relations and the Problem of Social Control

PART TWO: The Plantation of Bondage
4. The Fateful Edition to “Present Profit”
5. The Massacre of the Tenantry
6. Bricks without Straw: Bondage, but No Intermediate Stratum

PART THREE: Road to Rebellion
7. Bond-Labor: Enduring . . .
8. . . . and Resisting
9. The Insubstantiality of the Intermediate Stratum
10. The Status of African-Americans

PART FOUR: Rebellion and Reaction
11. Rebellion – And Its Aftermath
12. The Abortion of the “White Race” Social Control System in the Anglo-Caribbean
13. The Invention of the White Race – and the Ordeal of America

Appendices
Appendix II-A: (see Chapter 1, note 64 [re “Maroon communities” in the Americas])
Appendix II-B: (see Chapter 2, note 6 [re Wat Tyler’s Rebellion])
Appendix II-C: (see Chapter 5, note 46 [re the “‘cheap commodity’ strategy for capitalist conquest and William Bullock])
Appendix II-D: (see Chapter 7, note 197 [re the bond-labor system])
Appendix II-E: (see Chapter 9, note 54 [re reduction in the supply of persons in England “available for bond-labor in the plantation colonies”])
Appendix F: (see Chapter 13, note 26 [re William Gooch and the discussion of white supremacy among the ruling classes in eighteenth-century Virginia])
Editor’s Appendix G: A Guide to “The Invention of the White Race” Volume II
Editor’s Appendix H: Select Bibliography on Theodore W. Allen

Notes
Index [Newly Expanded]

This new edition of "The Invention of the White Race" is essential reading for those interested in matters of race and class, for study groups, and for classes. The volumes make especially thoughtful gifts for loved ones, friends, and co-workers.

Please encourage public librarians and school librarians to order these new editions so they are available for others to read!

The volumes are available directly from Verso Books Click Here

They are also available on special discount (including both volumes shrinkwrapped) from Amazon Click Here

For the initial price for a shrinkwrapped set of both volumes at Barnes and Noble Click Here

Table of Contents for Volume I

“The Invention of the White Race: Racial Oppression and Social Control”


Acknowledgements
Introduction to the Second Edition [by Jeffrey B. Perry]
Introduction
1. The Anatomy of Racial Oppression
2. Social Control and the Intermediate Strata: Ireland
3. Protestant Ascendancy and White Supremacy
4. Social Control: From Racial to National Oppression
5. Ulster
6. Anglo-America: Ulster Writ Large
7. The Sea-change
8. How the Sea-change was Wrought
Appendices
Appendix A: (see Introduction, note 46 [re intermarriage])
Appendix B: (see Introduction, note 46 [re “cheaper labor” rationale])
Appendix C: (see Chapter 1, note 58 and Chapter 2 note 51 [re Africans’ strength as a limit to English colonization])
Appendix D: (see Chapter 2, notes 42 and 73 [re English Plantations in Ireland as “response to rebellion”])
Appendix E: (see Chapter 2, note 58 [re England on threshold of its career as a world colonial power, with Ireland as its first objective”])
Appendix F: (see Chapter 2, note 77 [re Mountjoy’s “starvation strategy” for Ireland])
Appendix G: (see Chapter 2, note 108 [re “social control policies of the Western colonizing powers”])
Appendix H: (see Chapter 3, note 8 [re “Scottish slavery”])
Appendix I: (see Chapter 3, note 46 [re relative cost differential of English and Irish common labor greater than differential between wage-labor and bond-labor in continental Anglo-America])
Appendix J: (see Chapter 4, note 107 [re “Daniel O’Connell’s views regarding revolutionary violence in Ireland”])
Appendix K: (see Chapter 7, note 62 [re “The Slave” by Leander (John Hughes)])
Appendix L: (see Chapter 7, note 80 [re “Address from the people of Ireland to their Countrymen and Countrywomen in America”])
Editor’s Appendix M: A Brief Biography of Theodore W. Allen
Editor’s Appendix N: Notes to Encourage Engagement with Volume I
Chronological Finding Aid for Users of this Volume
Notes
Index [Newly Expanded]

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” 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 egalitarian motif and emphasis on class struggle it speaks to people today who strive for change worldwide. Its influence 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 implement a system of “racial oppression” and 2) the consequences were not only ruinous to the interests of African-Americans, they were also “disastrous” for European-American workers.

Please share this information with others who might be interested!
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

Discussion of Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race" Vol 2 "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America" Brecht Forum, 451 West St. (btwn Bank and Bethune), NYC, Thurs, June 9, 7:30pm Public transport: C,A or E to 14th St. and 8th Ave;

Discussion of Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race" Vol 2 "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America," Brecht Forum, 451 West St. (btwn Bank and Bethune), NYC, Thurs, June 9, 7:30 pm. Public transport: C,A or E to 14th St. and 8th Ave; #1,2,or 3 to 14th and 7th Ave (exit at 12th St.)
Be the first to comment