icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

100th Anniversary of Hubert Harrison’s Founding of the First Organization of the Militant “New Negro Movement"

June 12, 1917

100th Anniversary of Hubert Harrison’s Founding
of the First Organization of the Militant “New Negro Movement”

One hundred years ago, on June 12, 1917, Hubert Harrison founded the Liberty League of Negro-Americans at a rally attended by thousands at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 52-60 W. 132nd Street in Harlem. It was the first organization of the militant “New Negro Movement.” Several weeks later, on July 4, at a large rally at Metropolitan Baptist Church, 120 W. 138th Street, Harrison founded the movement’s first paper – “The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro.”

The Liberty League’s Bethel rally was called around the slogans "Stop Lynching and Disfranchisement” and “Make the South 'Safe For Democracy.'” Listed speakers included Harrison, the young activist Chandler Owen, and Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. (of Abyssinian Baptist Church). Marcus Garvey, a relatively unknown former printer from Jamaica also spoke at the rally in what was his first talk before a major Harlem audience.

The League's stated purpose was to take steps "to uproot" the twin evils of lynching and disfranchisement and "to petition the government for a redress of grievances." It aimed to "carry on educational and propaganda work among Negroes" and "exercise political pressure wherever possible" in order to "abate lynching." Harrison said it offered "the most startling program of any organization of Negroes in the country" as it demanded democracy at home for "Negro-Americans" before they would be expected to enthuse over democracy in Europe.

Two thousand people packed the Bethel church meeting and the audience rose in support during Harrison's introduction when he demanded "that Congress make lynching a Federal crime." Resolutions were passed calling the government's attention to the continued violation of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments (regarding slavery and involuntary servitude, citizenship rights, and voting rights); to the existence of mob law from Florida to New York; and to the demand that lynching be made a federal crime. In his talk Harrison also called for retaliatory self-defense whenever Black lives were threatened by mobs.

The Liberty League emphasized "a special sympathy" for “our brethren in Africa" and pledged to "work for the ultimate realization of democracy in Africa -- for the right of these darker millions to rule their own ancestral lands -- even as the people of Europe -- free from the domination of foreign tyrants." The League also adopted a tricolor flag. Harrison explained, because of the "Negro's" "dual relationship to our own and other peoples," we “adopted as our emblem the three colors, black brown and yellow, in perpendicular stripes." These colors were chosen because the "black, brown and yellow, [were] symbolic of the three colors of the Negro race in America." They were also, he suggested, symbolic of people of color worldwide.

Garvey, his fellow Jamaican and future “Negro World” editor W. A. Domingo, and other leading activists, including a number of important future leaders of the Garvey movement, joined Harrison’s Liberty League. From the Liberty League and the Voice came many core progressive ideas later utilized by Garvey in both the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the “Negro World.” Contemporaries readily acknowledged that Harrison’s work laid groundwork for the Garvey movement. Harrison claimed that from the Liberty League “Garvey appropriated every feature that was worthwhile in his movement” and that the secret of Garvey’s success was that he “[held] up to the Negro masses those things which bloom in their hearts” including “race-consciousness” and “racial solidarity” – “things taught first in 1917 by the “Voice” and The Liberty League.”

The July 4 meeting at which “The Voice” appeared came in the wake of the vicious white supremacist attacks (Harrison called it a “pogrom”) on the African American community of East St. Louis, Illinois (which is twelve miles from Ferguson, Missouri). Harrison again advised “Negroes” who faced mob violence in the South and elsewhere to "supply themselves with rifles and fight if necessary, to defend their lives and property." According to the “New York Times” he received great applause when he declared that "the time had come for the Negroes [to] do what white men who were threatened did, look out for themselves, and kill rather than submit to be killed." He was quoted as saying: "We intend to fight if we must . . . for the things dearest to us, for our hearths and homes." In his talk he encouraged “Negroes” everywhere who did not enjoy the protection of the law to arm in self-defense, to hide their arms, and to learn how to use their weapons. He also reportedly called for a collection of money to buy rifles for those who could not obtain them themselves, emphasizing that "Negroes in New York cannot afford to lie down in the face of this" because "East St. Louis touches us too nearly." According to the “Times,” Harrison said it was imperative to "demand justice" and to "make our voices heard." This call for armed self-defense and the desire to have the political voice of the militant New Negro heard were important components of Harrison's militant “New Negro” activism.

The Voice featured Harrison’s outstanding writing and editing and it included important book review and “Poetry for the People” sections. It contributed significantly to the climate leading up to Alain LeRoy Locke’s 1925 publication “The New Negro.”

Beginning in August 1919 Harrison edited “The New Negro: A Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort,” which described itself as “A Magazine for the New Negro,” published “in the interest of the New Negro Manhood Movement,” and “intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races -- especially of the Negro race.”

In early 1920 Harrison assumed "the joint editorship" of the “Negro World” and served as principal editor of that globe-sweeping newspaper of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (which was a major component of the “New Negro Movement”).

Then, in August 1920, while serving as editor of the “Negro World,” Harrison completed “When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World.” Many of Harrison’s most important “New Negro Movement” editorials and reviews from the 1917-1920 period were reprinted in “When Africa Awakes.” The book, recently republished in expanded form by Diasporic Africa Press, makes clear his pioneering theoretical, educational, and organizational role in the founding and development of the militant “New Negro Movement.”

Brief Biographical Background Pre the Founding of Militant “New Negro Movement”

St. Croix, Virgin Islands-born, Harlem-based, Hubert Henry Harrison (1883-1927) was a brilliant, class conscious and race conscious, writer, educator, orator, editor, book reviewer, political activist, and radical internationalist. Historian J. A. Rogers in “World’s Great Men of Color” described him as an “Intellectual Giant” who was “perhaps the foremost Aframerican intellect of his time.” Labor and civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph, referring to a period when Harlem was considered an international “Negro Mecca” and the “center of radical black thought,” described him as “the father of Harlem radicalism.” Richard B. Moore, active with the Socialist Party, African Blood Brotherhood, Communist Party, and movements for Caribbean independence and federation, described Harrison as “above all” his contemporaries in his steady emphasis that “a vital aim” was “the liberation of the oppressed African and other colonial peoples.”

Hubert Harrison played unique, signal roles in the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the “New Negro”/Garvey movement) of his era. He was a major influence on the class radical Randolph, on the race radical Garvey, and on other militant “New Negroes” in the period around World War I. W. A. Domingo, a socialist and the first editor of Garvey’s “Negro World” newspaper explained, “Garvey like the rest of us [A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen, Cyril Briggs, Grace Campbell, Richard B. Moore, and other “New Negroes”] followed Hubert Harrison.” Historian Robert A. Hill refers to Harrison as “the New Negro ideological mentor.” Considered the most class conscious of the race radicals and the most race conscious of the class radicals in those years, he is a key link in the two great trends of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation struggle – the labor and civil rights trend associated with Randolph and Martin Luther King Jr. and the race and nationalist trend associated with Garvey and Malcolm X. (King marched on Washington with Randolph at his side and Malcolm’s father was a Garveyite preacher and his mother was a reporter for Garvey’s Negro World, the newspaper for which Harrison had been principal editor.)

From 1911 to 1914 Harrison served as the leading Black theoretician, speaker, and activist in the Socialist Party of America. Party statements and practices -- including events at the 1912 convention where Socialists failed to address the “Negro Question” and supported Asian exclusion as “legislation restricting the invasion of the white man’s domain by other races” -- caused him to leave the Socialist Party in 1914. After departing, he offered what is arguably the most profound, but least heeded, criticism in the history of the United States left -- that Socialist Party leaders, like organized labor leaders, put the “white race” first, before class, that they put the [“white’] “Race First and class after.”

Harrison was a pioneering Black activist in the Freethought, Free Speech, and Birth Control Movements. Two years after leaving the Socialist Party, Harrison turned to concentrated work in the Black community. Beginning in 1916, he served as the intellectual guiding light of the militant “New Negro Movement” -- the race and class conscious, internationalist, mass based, autonomous, militantly assertive movement for “political equality, social justice, civic opportunity, and economic power.”

Those interested in additional information on Hubert Harrison and the founding of the militant “New Negro Movement” are encouraged to read "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press), "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press), and 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.”

For information on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE

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

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

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

Contents "The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen On the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy" by Jeffrey B. Perry

Table of Contents

  Hubert Harrison
  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
  White Blindspot
  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

Addendum [re “Daedalus”]

This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of Cultural Logic edited by Joseph G. Ramsey with the assistance of David Siar.

To read the article CLICK HERE and go to top left,


To read the article without downloading a PDF CLICK HERE!

For information on “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE

For writings by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

For a video presentation on Hubert Harrison, "The Father of Harlem Radicalism," who is discussed at the beginning of this video CLICK HERE

For information on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race" (Verso Books) CLICK HERE

For additional writings by and about Theodore W. Allen CLICK HERE

For a video presentation on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race," which draws insights from the life and work of Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
For key insights from Theodore W. Allen on U.S. Labor History CLICK HERE

 Read More 
Be the first to comment

The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy

In recent years the gap between rich and poor in the United States has grown to record proportions while stark racial disparities have persisted and in many instances increased. Millions of poor and working people are suffering and conditions are getting worse, particularly for Black and Latino people. This is happening at a time when the U.S. Census Bureau is predicting that “minorities” will comprise more than half of all children by 2023 and the majority of the population by 2042 and at a time when poor and working people domestically and internationally are showing an increased willingness to protest against exploitation and oppression.

While there are many factors affecting the current situation it is instructive to review some class and racial aspects of the developing conjuncture in the United States and to do so in the context of insights drawn from the lives and work of Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) and Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005). Harrison and Allen were working-class intellectual/activists who focused on the centrality of the fight against white supremacy and they are two of the twentieth-century’s most important writers on race and class. In the belief that their work has much to offer scholars, activists, and readers today, this essay presents an introduction to Harrison and Allen followed by a brief look at the developing conjuncture and a lengthier discussion of some insights from their lives and work.

For more see -- "The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy" by Jeffrey B. Perry in Cultural Logic, Special Issue: Culture and Crisis, available HERE and HERE
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

"In Memoriam: Theodore William Allen (1919-2005)" by Jeffrey B. Perry (re-posted after the fourth anniversary of his death)

       Theodore W. Allen, a working class intellectual and activist and author of the influential two-volume history The Invention of the White Race (Verso:1994, 1997), died on January 19, 2005, surrounded by friends in his apartment at 97 Brooklyn Avenue in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He was 85. The cause of death was cancer, which he had battled for 15 years. Announcement of the death was made by his close friend Linda Vidinha.
Allen, an ardent opponent of white supremacy, spent much of his last forty years researching the role of white supremacy in United States history and examining records of colonial Virginia as he documented and analyzed the development of the "white race" in the latter part of the seventeenth century. His main thesis, that the "white race" developed as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor unrest as manifest in Bacon's Rebellion of 1676-77, was first articulated in February 1974 in a talk he delivered at a Union of Radical Political Economists meeting in New Haven. Versions of that talk were published in 1975 in Radical America       
In the 1960s "Ted" Allen significantly influenced the direction of the student movement and the new left with an article entitled "Can White Radicals Be Radicalized?" which developed the argument that white supremacy, reinforced among European Americans by the "white skin privilege," was the main retardant of working class consciousness in the United States and that efforts at radical social change should direct principal efforts at challenging the system of white supremacy and urging "repudiation of white skin privilege" by European Americans.

Allen was in the forefront in challenging phenotypical (physical appearance-based) definitions of race, in challenging "racism is innate" arguments, in challenging theories that the working class benefits from white supremacy, in calling attention to the crucial role of the buffer social control group in racial oppression, in documenting and analyzing the development of the "white race" in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and in clarifying how "this all-class association of European-Americans held together by 'racial' privileges conferred on laboring class European-Americans relative to African-Americans--[has served] as the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination of national life" in the United States. These contributions differentiate his work from many writers in the rapidly growing white race as "a social and cultural construction" ranks, which his writings helped to spawn.

In The Invention of the White Race Allen focused on Virginia, the first and pattern-setting continental colony. He emphasized that "When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no white people there" and he added that he found "no instance of the official use of the word 'white' as a token of social status before its appearance in a Virginia law passed in 1691." He also found, similar to historian Lerone Bennett, Jr., that throughout most of the seventeenth century conditions for African-American and European-American laborers and bond-servants were very similar. Under such conditions solidarity among the laboring classes reached a peak during Bacon's Rebellion: the capitol (Jamestown) was burned; two thousand rebels forced the governor to flee across the Chesapeake Bay and controlled 6/7 of Virginia's land; and, in the latter stages of the struggle, "foure hundred English and Negroes in Arms" demanded their freedom from bondage.

To Allen, the social control problems highlighted by Bacon's Rebellion "demonstrated beyond question the lack of a sufficient intermediate stratum to stand between the ruling plantation elite and the mass of European-American and African-American laboring people, free and bond." He then detailed how, in the period after Bacon's Rebellion the white race was invented as "a bourgeois social control formation in response to [such] laboring class unrest." He described systematic ruling class policies, which extended privileges to European laborers and bond-servants and imposed and extended harsher disabilities and blocked normal class mobility for African-Americans. Thus, for example, 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," Allen emphasized that this was not an "unthinking decision"! "Rather, it was a deliberate act by the plantation bourgeoisie; it proceeded from a conscious decision in the process of establishing a system of racial oppression, even though it meant repealing an electoral principle that had existed in Virginia for more than a century."

For Allen, "The hallmark, the informing principle, of racial oppression in its colonial origins and as it has persisted in subsequent historical contexts, is the reduction of all members of the oppressed group to one undifferentiated social status, beneath that of any member of the oppressor group." The key to understanding racial oppression, he wrote, is the social control buffer -- that group in society, which helps to control the poor for the rich. Under racial oppression in Virginia, any persons of discernible non-European ancestry in colonial Virginia after Bacon's Rebellion were denied a role in the social control buffer group, the bulk of which was made up of working-class "whites." In contrast, Allen explained, in the Caribbean "Mulattos" were included in the social control group and were promoted into middle-class status. For him, this was "the key to the understanding the difference between Virginia 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)." The difference "was rooted in the objective fact that in the West Indies there were too few 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." (In 1676 in Virginia, for example, there were approximately 6,000 European-American bond-laborers and 2,000 African-American bond-laborers.)

In 1996, on radio station WBAI in New York, Allen discussed the subject of "American Exceptionalism" and the much-vaunted "immunity" of the United States to proletarian class-consciousness and its effects. His explanation for the relatively low level of class consciousness was that social control in the United States was guaranteed, not primarily by the class privileges of a petit bourgeoisie, but by the white-skin privileges of laboring class whites; that the ruling class co-opts European-American workers into the buffer social control system against the interests of the working class to which they belong; and that the "white race" by its all-class form, conceals the operation of the ruling class social control system by providing it with a majoritarian "democratic" facade.

          Theodore William Allen, the third child (after a sister Eula May and brother Tom) of Thomas E. and Almeda Earl Allen was born into a middle-class family August 23, 1919, in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father was a sales manager and his mother a housewife. In 1929 the family moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where, Ted was, in his words, "proletarianized by the Great Depression." He attended college for a couple of days after high school, but, because he didn't believe that setting encouraged independent thought, he didn't think it was for him and didn't go back.

              At age 17 he joined the American Federation of Musicians (Local 362) and served as its delegate to the Huntington Central Labor Union, AFL. He continued work in the trade union movement as a coal miner in West Virginia for three years until he was forced to leave because of a back injury. During that period he belonged to United Mine Worker locals 5426 (Prenter, West Virginia), 6206 (Gary, West Virginia) where he was an organizer and Local President, and 4346 (Barrackville, West Virginia). He also was co-organizer of a trade union organizing program for the Marion County West Virginia Industrial Union Council, CIO.

In 1938 Allen married Ruth Voithofer, one of eleven children in a coal-mining family, whom he first met in 1934. Ruth was active in organizing and educational work among mining families and women and, beginning in 1942, was a prominent organizer for the United Electrical Workers Union. They separated in the mid-1940s and Ruth Newell (her name after re-marrying) died in 1999.

In 1948 Ted moved to New York. He had joined the Communist Party in the 1930s and, after coming to New York, he taught classes in economics at the Party's Jefferson School at Union Square in Manhattan (1949-56). He was also active in community, civil rights, trade union, and student organizing work; he worked in a factory, as a retail clerk, as a mechanical design draftsman, as an elevator operator, and as a junior high school math teacher at the Grace Church School in Greenwich Village.

In the 1950s Ted married Marie Strong, a poet, and became stepfather to her son, Michael. In the late 1950s the Communist Party went through major repression and internal struggle and Ted left the Party in order to help establish a new organization the Provisional Organizing Committee to Reconstitute the Communist Party (POC). In this period he wrote a number of economic and political articles on the economic situation in the United States and he argued that neither United States nor Latin American workers benefited from imperialism. In 1962 Marie died tragically and Ted, suffering greatly from her loss, discontinued work with the POC and traveled to England and Ireland.

By the mid 1960s, back in Brooklyn, and increasingly affected by the political climate marked by the growing civil rights movement, struggles for national liberation and socialism, and the Vietnam War, Allen set about taking a fresh look at the world and at his former beliefs. Nothing would be sacred. Though his formal education had ended with high school, he was a trained economist, he read widely in history, politics, literature, and the sciences, and he had a probing and analytical mind -- all of which would serve him well in the work ahead.

Drawing on the insights of W. E .B. Du Bois in Black Reconstruction on the blindspot of America, which he paraphrased as "the white blindspot," Allen began work on a historical study of three crises in United States history in which there were general confrontations of the forces of capital and those from below -- the crises of The Civil War and Reconstruction, the Populist Revolt of the 1890s, and the Great Depression of the 1930s. His work focused on the role of the theory and practice of white supremacy in shaping those outcomes. He worked together with his friend, the late Esther Kusic, and his work influenced another friend, Noel Ignatin [Ignatiev]. Together, Ignatin and Allen provided the copy for an influential pamphlet containing both "White Blindspot," under Ignatin's name, and Allen's article "Can White Radicals Be Radicalized."

Allen argued against what he referred to as the current consensus on U.S. labor history -- one which attributed the low level of class consciousness among American workers to such factors as the early development of civil liberties, the heterogeneity of the work force, the "safety valve" of homesteading opportunities in the West, the ease of social mobility, the relative shortage of labor, and the early development of "pure and simple trade unionism." He emphasized that each of these rationales had to be reinterpreted in terms of white supremacy, that white supremacy was reinforced by the white-skin privilege of white workers, and "that the white-skin privilege does not serve the real interests of the white workers."

The pamphlet, which issued a call to action -- "to repudiate the white-skin privilege" -- was published by the SDS-affiliated Radical Education Project and it had immediate effect on the left. It sharply posed the issues of how to fight white supremacy and whether, or not, that fight was in the interest of "white" workers. It also set the terms of discussion and debate for many activists within SDS.

Allen developed the analysis in his article into a still unpublished book-length manuscript entitled "The Kernel and the Meaning" (1972). It was then, in 1972, in the course of this work, that he became convinced that the problems related to white supremacy couldn't be resolved without a history of the plantation colonies of the 17th and 18th century. His reasoning was clear -- white supremacy still ruled in the United States more than a century after the abolition of slavery and the reasons for that had to be explained. He proceeded to search for a structural principle that was essential to the social order based on slave labor in the continental plantation colonies and still was essential to late twentieth-century America's social order based on wage-labor.

Over the next twenty years Allen did extensive primary research in colonial Virginia records (and his unpublished transcripts of this work, with his eye for the conditions of labor, are another of his important historical contributions). In this period he generated other unpublished book-length manuscripts including "The Genesis of the Chattel-Labor System in Continental Anglo-America" and "The Peculiar Seed," both of which dealt with the early 17th-century development of chattel bond-servitude in Virginia, under which workers could be bought and sold like property. (This chattelization of labor was done primarily among European American workers at first.)

When the first volume of The Invention of the White Race appeared it drew on, and challenged, the work of some of America's leading colonial historians including Winthrop Jordan and Edmund S. Morgan. It offered important theoretical and historical insights in the struggle against white supremacy when it challenged the two major arguments which tend to undermine the struggle against white supremacy in the working class -- the notion that racism is innate (as suggested by Jordan's "unthinking decision" explanation) and the notion that European-American workers benefit from racism (as suggested by Morgan's "there were too few free poor on hand to matter").

Allen challenged these ideas with his factual presentation and analysis, by providing a comprehensive alternate explanation, and by skillfully drawing on examples from Ireland (where a religio/racial oppression existed under the Protestant Ascendancy) and the Caribbean (where a different social control formation was developed based on promotion of "Mulattos" to petit-bourgeois status). He concluded that the codifications of the Penal Laws of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland and the slave codes of white supremacy in continental Anglo-America presented four common defining characteristics of those two regimes: 1) declassing legislation, directed at property-holding members of the oppressed group; 2) the deprivation of civil rights; 3) the illegalization of literacy; and 4) displacement of family rights and authorities. This understanding of racial oppression led him to conclude that a comparative study of "Protestant Ascendancy" in Ireland, and "white supremacy" in continental Anglo-America (in both its colonial and regenerate United States forms) demonstrates that racial oppression is not dependent upon differences of "phenotype."

While working on The Invention of the White Race Allen taught as an adjunct history instructor at Essex County Community College in Newark, NJ, and worked several years each on the staff of the Brooklyn Museum, as a postal mail handler in Jersey City, NJ, and as a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. Constantly at the edge of poverty his scholarship was remarkable for its dedication and tenacity in the face of great personal difficulties. During this period his research in Virginia was facilitated by the generosity of Ed Peeples and his family in Richmond and his work in Brooklyn was encouraged by his former companion and close friend Linda Vidinha, her family and her companion Marsha Rosenthal, and a number of other close friends and neighbors who supported his efforts in numerous ways. For over thirty years his research, writings, and ideas were shared and discussed with his close friend Jeff Perry.

As an individual, Ted Allen attracted a wide circle of friends. He presented himself in a humble and homespun way, he was thoughtful and generous in manner, he had a wonderful sense of humor, and he took time to undertake many daily acts of caring and consideration. He was true and loyal to his friends, but always in a principled and forthright way. In many respects, he was a model of the true working-class intellectual. He lived what he preached and he was rooted deep in the working class. He challenged the division between thinkers and laborers, his work was connected to labor and anti- white-supremacist activists and actions, he was disciplined and persistent in his intellectual work, and he was principled in his politics. His life was dedicated to radical social change and he remained true to the course.

Allen's The Invention of the White Race, as well as his other pamphlets, articles, letters, talks, and unpublished manuscripts on the theory and practice of white supremacy in United States history have influenced several generations of anti-white supremacist and labor scholars and activists. They have also impacted a wide range of academic fields including history, sociology, politics, and legal, cultural, and literary studies. His most recent work includes an almost completed book length manuscript, "Toward a Revolution in Labor History" and an article submitted for publication only weeks before his death which focused on the individual and the collective and addressed theoretical problems in the socialist movement.

Theodore Allen was pre-deceased by his elder sister Eula May of Harrisonburg, Va. He is survived by his elder brother Tom, his siblings' families, his stepson Michael Strong, his companion in the 1970s and close friend Linda Vidinha, and by many friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and people influenced by his work.

His literary works have been left to his literary executor, Jeffrey B. Perry, and plans are underway to publish and disseminate his writings and to place the Theodore W. Allen Papers with a repository.

A "Theodore W. Allen Scholar Program" has been established in honor of his "pioneering work" on race and class as a "politically engaged independent scholar and public intellectual." That program, under the auspices of the Center for Working Class Life of the Economics Department of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, 11794-4384, 631-632-7536 (Michael Zweig, Director), will support scholarship and public presentations exploring the intersections of race and class. Tax-deductible contributions to the Fund may be made out to "Stony Brook Foundation" and marked "for Theodore William Allen Scholar Program."

Two commemorative events are being scheduled in Ted Allen's memory. In the early spring, his ashes (as per his request) will be spread over that area "three miles up country" from West Point, Virginia where the "foure hundred English and Negroes in Arms" demanded their freedom in 1676.

The second activity, planned for June 18, 2005, from 1 to 4 p.m. in the community auditorium of the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, will commemorate Ted's life and work and include testimony from family and friends who desire to speak on his life, work, and influence.

A two-part "Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race" by Theodore W. Allen can be found in Cultural Logic at "Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race (Part 1) and "Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race (Part 2).

Among Ted's many well wishers during his recent battle were:

              Sean, Donna, and Dylan Ahern

              Thomas E. Allen

              Thomas E. (Dobby) and Dorothy Allen

              Irving and Mildred Appelbaum

              Dennis and Ruth Blunt

              Peter Bohmer

              Evie, Gene, and Nadja Bruskin

              Florence, Remco, Uchenna, and Obina Van Capeleeven

              Rosemarie Cavagnaro

              Connie and Bill Coleman

              Gerry Colby

              Lynn and John Dambeck

              Durand, Priscilla, & Luke Daniel

              Carl Davidson

              Lee and May Davenport

              Barbara Denlinger

              Mary DiGregorio

              Dilmeran Dunham

              David Finkel

              Bill Fletcher

              Anamaria Flores

              Tami Gold

              Philip Harper

              Becky and Perri Hom

              Anne and Charles Johnson

             Barbara Johnson

             Stella Jones

             Bob Kirkman

              Beth Lyons

             Pamela McKenzie

              Leon Moultrie

             Gerry and Carolyn Mosseller

              Greg Myerson

              Maggie Paul

              Dennis O'Neil

             Kay Osborn

              Carol Patti

             Chad Pearson

             Eva and John Pellegrini

              Edward, Karen, and Camille Peeples

              Jeff Perry

              Greg and Linda Reight

              Cecily Rodriguez

              Gilberto Rodriguez

              Linda Roma

              Marcy Rosenthal

              Arlene and Spencer Rothenhauser

              Yvette, Christopher, and Gabriel Roussel

             Frank and Stacy Saavedra

             Andrea Schneer

              Jonathan Scott

              Vicki and Bob Shand

              Dave Siar

              David Slavin

              Christina Starobin

              Michael Strong

              Vivian Todini

              Chris Tsakos

              Linda Vidinha

              Mary Vidinha

              Stella Winston

              Joan Zimmerman

              Michael Zweig

 Read More 
Post a comment