Jeffrey B. Perry
on Theodore W. Allen's
"The Invention of the White Race"
especially Vol. II
"The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America"
January 31, 2013
Brecht Forum, NYC
The Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen Society
[Hubert] Harrison 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 “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 modern, scientific, critical, and independent thought as a means toward liberation.
Harrison, who referred to himself as a “radical internationalist,” was extremely well-versed in history and events in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, and Europe, and, according to Richard B. Moore, he was “above all” the militant Black socialists in his steady emphasis on “the liberation of the oppressed African and colonial peoples” as being a “vital aim.” He opposed capitalism and maintained that white supremacy was central to capitalist rule in the United States, and, more than any other political leader of his era, he combined class consciousness and anti-white-supremacist race consciousness in a coherent political radicalism.
Harrison also understood both the abuse of and the potential of “democracy” in America. 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”; that “the cant of ‘Democracy’ ” was “intended as dust in the eyes of white voters”; and that true democracy and equality for “Negroes” implied “a revolution . . . startling even to think of.”
Working from this theoretical framework, he was active with a wide variety of movements and organizations, and he 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 the 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; as the founder and leading figure of the militant, World War I–era New Negro movement; and as the editor of the "Negro World" and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement (described by the historian Randall K. Burkett as “the largest mass-based protest
movement in Black American history”) 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 socialists A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen, the future communists Cyril Briggs and Richard B. Moore, and the race-radical Marcus Garvey.
2. A Hubert Harrison Reader
This individually introduced and annotated collection of one hundred thirty-eight articles offers a comprehensive presentation of Hubert Harrison's writings on class and race consciousness, socialism, the labor movement, the New Negro movement, religion, education, politics, Black leadership and leaders, international events, Caribbean topics, the Virgin Islands, literature and literary criticism, and the Black theater. Historian Ernest Allen, Jr., emphasizes that this work will "change the way we tend to look at Black thought generally in this period."
3. Hubert Harrison
Life, Legacy & Some Writings
4. Theodore W. Allen
(with audio and video links)
Sharese Porter, Jeffrey B. Perry, and Ali McBride with "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" and "A Hubert Harrison Reader" at the Brooklyn Book Festival, September 13, 2009. The T-Shirt comes compliments of Timur Davis and friends in Newark, NJ.
My primary historical writing has been on Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927). St. Croix, Virgin Islands-born and Harlem-based, Harrison was a brilliant writer, orator, editor, educator, critic, and political activist who was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time” and by the social activist A. Philip Randolph as “the father of Harlem radicalism.” Harrison was the major radical influence on both the class-conscious Randolph and the race-conscious Marcus Garvey as well as on a generation of “New Negro” activists and “common people” and he is the only person in United States history to play signal, leading roles in the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the New Negro/Garvey movement) of his era. He founded the World War I-era “New Negro Movement,” was reportedly “the first regular book reviewer in Negro newspaperdom,” and is a key ideological link in the two major trends of the civil rights/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.
I have previously edited "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press) and authored "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press). Currently, I am currently writing the second volume of my two-volume Harrison biography and preparing “The Writings of Hubert Harrison” for placement on Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library website. Previously, I also preserved, indexed, and inventoried the Hubert H. Harrison Papers, which are now at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library with a 102-page Finding Aid available online.
Before I began work on Harrison, I was influenced toward serious study of matters of race and class in America through personal experiences and readings and through the work of an independent historian, Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005). Allen originated the “white skin privilege” concept in 1965 and among his many writings are "Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race" (1975), "The Invention of the White Race" (2 vols. 1994 and 1997), and critical reviews of Edmund S. Morgan’s "American Slavery, American Freedom" (1978) and David Roediger’s "The Wages of Whiteness" (2001). Allen argues 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); that a system of racial privileges was deliberately instituted as a conscious ruling-class policy in order to define and establish the "white race"; and that the consequence was not only ruinous to the interests of the African American workers, but was also "disastrous" for “white” workers.
Currently, I am preserving, indexing, and inventorying the Theodore W. Allen Papers.
I have recently completed “Introductions,” back matter, internal study guides, and expanded indexes for both volumes of the new (November 20, 2012) Verso Books editions of The Invention of the White Race.
Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen were independent scholars who made important intellectual contributions during periods of domestic and international challenges to existing class and white-supremacist rule. They lived in daily contact with the “common people,” pursued the intellectual issues that concerned them with passion and great integrity, maintained networks for feedback and exchange of ideas, and felt that they were contributing towards a better society. Their intellectual independence contributed significantly to their ability to confront problems and issues directly. They were prime examples of the point made by the historian George W. Stocking Jr. in "Victorian Anthropology" that "Standing outside the normal process by which intellectual traditions are transmitted, the autodidact may embody the spirit of . . . [the] age in an unusually direct way.”
My most recent work on Harrison and Allen is the article “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy.” It is available by clicking the link in the top left corner.
Table of Contents
"The Developing Conjuncture and Insights From
Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen
On the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy"
By Jeffrey B. Perry
( For a link to the article CLICK HERE and go to top left)
Theodore W. Allen
Harrison and Allen and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White-Supremacy
Some Class and Racial Aspects of The Conjuncture
Deepening Economic Crisis
U.S. Workers Faring Badly
White Supremacist Shaping
Millions are Suffering and Conditions are Worsening
Insights from Hubert Harrison
Arrival in America, Contrast with St. Croix
Socialist Party Writings
“Southernism or Socialism – which?”
The Socialist Party Puts [the “White”] Race First and Class After
Class Consciousness, White Supremacy, and the "Duty to Champion the Cause of the Negro"
On “The Touchstone” and the Two-Fold Character of Democracy in America
Concentrated Race-Conscious Work in the Black Community
Capitalist Imperialism and the Need to Break Down Exclusion Walls of White Workers
The International Colored Unity League
Struggle Against White Supremacy is Central
Insights from Theodore W. Allen
Early Research and Writings and Pioneering Use of “White Skin Privilege” Concept
Why No Socialism? . . . and The Main Retardant to Working Class Consciousness
The Role of White Supremacy in Three Previous Crises
The Great Depression . . . and the White Supremacist Response
Response to Four Arguments Against and Five “Artful Dodges”
Early 1970s Writings and Strategy
“The Invention of the White Race”
Other Important Contributions in Writings on the Colonial Period
Inventing the “White Race” and Fixing “a perpetual Brand upon Free Negros”
Political Economic Aspects of the Invention of the “White Race”
Racial Oppression and National Oppression
“Racial Slavery” and “Slavery”
Male Supremacy, Gender Oppression, and Laws Affecting the Family
Slavery as Capitalism, Slaveholders as Capitalists, Enslaved as Proletarians
Class-Conscious, Anti-White Supremacist Counter Narrative – Comments on Jordan and Morgan
Not Simply a Social Construct, But a Ruling Class Social Control Formation . . . and Comments on Roediger
The “White Race” and “White Race” Privilege
On the Bifurcation of “Labor History” and “Black History” and on the “National Question”
Later Writings . . . “Toward a Revolution in Labor History”
The Struggle Ahead
(with audio, video, photo links)
Life, Legacy & Some Writings
(with audio and video links)