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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

Important Labor HistoryThe Invention of the White Raceby Theodore W. Allen

Theodore W. Allen’s The Invention of the White Race should be of special interest to students and scholars of Labor History. This two-volume "classic," recently published by Verso Books in a new, expanded edition (with internal study guides), challenges existing master narratives and seeks to provide the foundation for a radical new interpretation of U.S. History and U.S. Labor History.

Read comments on Invention from scholars and labor activists HERE and see a few samples below, at the very bottom.

Note the attention to labor in the following "Table of Contents" --

The Invention of the White Race
Vol. 2 The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America

Table of Contents

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 Addiction 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

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

Index [Newly Expanded]

Sample Reviewer Comments --

“In a masterful two-volume work Theodore (Ted) Allen transforms the reader’s understanding of race and racial oppression . . . This two volume work becomes more than a look at history; it is a foundation for a path toward social justice." -- Bill Fletcher, Jr., co-author, Solidarity Divided and “They’re Bankrupting Us!” And 20 Other Myths about Unions

The Invention of the White Race [is] . . . meticulously researched . . . and its insights . . . themes and perspectives should be made available to all scholars . . . it should become a classic without which no future American history will be written.” -- Audrey Smedley, Professor Emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University, author of Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview

"As magisterial and comprehensive as the day it was first published, Theodore Allen's The Invention of the White Race continues to set the intellectual, analytical and rhetorical standard when it comes to understanding the real roots of white supremacy, its intrinsic connection to the class system, and the way in which persons committed to justice and equity might move society to a different reality." -- Tim Wise, author, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, and Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority

“Allen's Invention of the White Race is one of the most important books of U.S. history ever written. It illuminates the origins of the largest single obstacle to progressive change and working class power in the US: racism and white supremacy.” -- Joe Berry, Labor educator, organizer, and author of Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education

“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

"Few books are capable of carrying the profound weight of being deemed to be a classic--this is surely one. Indeed, if one has to read one book to provide a foundation for understanding the contemporary U.S.--read this one." – Gerald Horne, activist, historian and author, most recently, of Negro Comrades of the Crown: African-Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation

“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

“If one wants to understand the current, often contradictory, system of racial oppression in the United States --- and its historical origins --- there is only one place to start: Theodore Allen's brilliant, illuminating, The Invention of the White Race.” -- Michael Goldfield, author of The Color of Politics: Race and the Mainsprings of American Politics

“[A] historical materialist analysis . . . reflecting the perspective of the author whose working class upbringing informed his work and whose political understanding called for constant struggle against white supremacy.” -- Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, author, Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie

"We cannot effectively counter the depth of white racism in the US if we don’t understand its origin and mechanisms. [Allen] 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

“Through an exhaustive review of the primary sources, Theodore W. Allen pulls back the veil over the origin of racial oppression in Anglo-America. Allen's description of how the 1% divided and controlled the 99% in response to the class struggles of 17th century Virginia challenges European Americans today to ‘throw off the stifling incubus of the white identity.’” -- Sean Ahern, New York City public school teacher

“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

“Allen’s closely argued book produces a stunning transformation of the issue [of which came first, slavery or racism] by insisting that the question is . . . when and how European-Americans began to think of themselves as white . . . Historians of early America are likely to find especially illuminating Allen’s well-developed analogy between Ireland and British America, which persuaded me, at lest, that systems of ‘racial oppression’ have little to do with phenotype. Immigration historians should be particularly interested in Allen’s analysis of how the Irish, victims of racial oppression at home, learned that they were ‘white’ once they crossed the Atlantic and became . . . supporters of a system of racial oppression in the United States.” -- Russell R. Menard, University of Minnesota, in Journal of American Ethnic History

“Anyone who wants to understand the peculiar state of working class organizing in the USA — from the support by the majority of Southern white working class people for the war to defend slavery to the perversions of "Joe the Plumber" — needs to study and learn from the insights provided by the work of Ted Allen. Ted Allen's work resonates to this day with everyone who has confronted the organizing challenge of dealing with the issue of race in the crucible of class politics in the USA. During my nearly 50 years of writing, reporting and organizing, there has rarely been a time when Ted Allen's studies haven't helped me understand more clearly what we were confronting, either in Chicago's public schools or in other areas (such as military organizing) where I worked.” -- George N. Schmidt, reporter for www.substancenews.net and Chicago Teachers Union delegate

“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

". . . this is a rare book. It is the product of deep reflection, patient research and passionate political commitment. It speaks authoritatively to a thousand-year sweep of the history of Britain, Ireland, West Africa, the colonized Americas and the United States. Its origins outside professional history – Allen has worked as miner, mailhandler, draftsman and librarian – lend an urgency and clarity usually absent in academic writings, but without even a bit of anti-intellectualism . . . Allen . . . is making a decisive contribution to the demystifying and dismantling of what he terms the ‘quintessential Peculiar Institution’ – that is, ‘the so-called “White Race.”’ His 1975 pamphlet, Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery brilliantly posed the issue of the ‘invention of the white race’ within a materialist framework.’ . . . In Volume One, Allen uses Irish history as a ‘mirror’ to generate new angles of vision regarding race in the U.S. Since, as he argues, ‘Irish history presents a case of racial oppression without reference to alleged skin color,’ it offers a sharp challenge to easy assumptions that racism is a natural, color-based ‘phylogenic’ phenomenon. . . . Allen offers the best account yet of the process by which the Irish “became white” in the U.S. and of the roles of the Democratic Party, the unions, the labor market and the Catholic Church in ensuring that the nineteenth century immigrants best ‘prepared by tradition and experience to empathize with the African Americans’ would become a critical component of the “intermediate stratum’ of ‘whites’ perpetuating a system of racial oppression and class privilege in the U.S. In describing this tragic transformation, Allen provides a model for the consideration of ‘white skin privileges,’ which is seen as material and real but also as part of a larger system of oppression, including white worker oppression . . . what is most striking in Invention of the White Race is the quality of searching questions and clear answers.” – David Roediger, in Race Traitor

“Along with David Roediger and Noel Ignatiev, Theodore Allen has made a critically important contribution to the study of working-class 'whiteness' in the United States. Allen's exploration of how and why Irish immigrants embraced a white identity is truly original, and worthy of renewed engagement.” -- Bruce Nelson, author of Irish Nationalists and the Making of the Irish Race
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