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The Invention of the White Race: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, Volume 2

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On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Martin Luther King declared his dream of a racially integrated, non-discriminatory American society. Some three centuries before, that dream had in many ways been a reality, since white skin privilege was recognized neither in law nor in the social practices of the labouring classes. But by the early decades of the eighteenth c On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Martin Luther King declared his dream of a racially integrated, non-discriminatory American society. Some three centuries before, that dream had in many ways been a reality, since white skin privilege was recognized neither in law nor in the social practices of the labouring classes. But by the early decades of the eighteenth century, racial oppression would be the norm in the plantation colonies, and African Americans would continue to suffer under its yoke for more than two centuries. In this second volume of his acclaimed study of the origins of racial oppression, Theodore Allen explores the ways in which African bond-laborers were turned into chattel slaves and were differentiated from their fellow proletarians of European origin. Rocked by the solidarity across racial lines exhibited by the rebellious labouring classes in the wake of the famous Bacon's Rebellion, the plantation Bourgeoisie sought a solution to its labor problems in the creation of a buffer social control stratum of poor whites, who enjoyed little enough privilege in colonial society beyond that of their skin color, which protected them from the enslavement visited upon Africans and African Americans. Such was, as Allen puts it, 'the invention of the white race,' that 'peculiar institution' which continues to haunt social relations in the US down to the present.


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On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Martin Luther King declared his dream of a racially integrated, non-discriminatory American society. Some three centuries before, that dream had in many ways been a reality, since white skin privilege was recognized neither in law nor in the social practices of the labouring classes. But by the early decades of the eighteenth c On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Martin Luther King declared his dream of a racially integrated, non-discriminatory American society. Some three centuries before, that dream had in many ways been a reality, since white skin privilege was recognized neither in law nor in the social practices of the labouring classes. But by the early decades of the eighteenth century, racial oppression would be the norm in the plantation colonies, and African Americans would continue to suffer under its yoke for more than two centuries. In this second volume of his acclaimed study of the origins of racial oppression, Theodore Allen explores the ways in which African bond-laborers were turned into chattel slaves and were differentiated from their fellow proletarians of European origin. Rocked by the solidarity across racial lines exhibited by the rebellious labouring classes in the wake of the famous Bacon's Rebellion, the plantation Bourgeoisie sought a solution to its labor problems in the creation of a buffer social control stratum of poor whites, who enjoyed little enough privilege in colonial society beyond that of their skin color, which protected them from the enslavement visited upon Africans and African Americans. Such was, as Allen puts it, 'the invention of the white race,' that 'peculiar institution' which continues to haunt social relations in the US down to the present.

30 review for The Invention of the White Race: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, Volume 2

  1. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm

    Continuing on from the case in Volume One (Racial Oppression and Social Control) Allen moves from exploring the origins of the racial logic in social hierarchies of the emergence of American agricultural capitalism, where whiteness did not, for instance, apply to the Irish, to explore the transformation of African bond labourers into chattel slaves and their racialised separation from other European-sourced bond labourers. In short, Allen's case is that North American racial logic is grounded in Continuing on from the case in Volume One (Racial Oppression and Social Control) Allen moves from exploring the origins of the racial logic in social hierarchies of the emergence of American agricultural capitalism, where whiteness did not, for instance, apply to the Irish, to explore the transformation of African bond labourers into chattel slaves and their racialised separation from other European-sourced bond labourers. In short, Allen's case is that North American racial logic is grounded in the order of North American capitalism. In this, it is a masterful Marxist argument that the racial hierarchies of the USA are intimately interwoven with its particular capitalist order. As the title indicates – whiteness came later, after class, as a way to split the working population from its common concerns. These two volumes should radically transform the way historians and others explore US history.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Anderson

    In Volume II of The Invention of the White Race, Theodore Allen explores the transformation that turned African bond-laborers into slaves and segregated them from their fellow proletarians of European origin. In response to labor unrest, where solidarities were not determined by skin color, the plantation bourgeoisie sought to construct a buffer of poor whites, whose new racial identity would protect them from the enslavement visited upon African Americans. This was the invention of the white ra In Volume II of The Invention of the White Race, Theodore Allen explores the transformation that turned African bond-laborers into slaves and segregated them from their fellow proletarians of European origin. In response to labor unrest, where solidarities were not determined by skin color, the plantation bourgeoisie sought to construct a buffer of poor whites, whose new racial identity would protect them from the enslavement visited upon African Americans. This was the invention of the white race, an act of cruel ingenuity that haunts America to this day. (From the back cover) For an actual review, I can only direct you to Jeffrey B. Perry's Goodreads review because he says it better than I ever could. Suffice it say, this is one of the best works of Marxist historical analysis and the best studies of the birth of racial oppression in America that I've ever read. Featuring an incredible level of research into primary and secondary sources (the notes pages themselves stretch into the hundreds),it was well worth the time and effort.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nikhil P. Freeman

    "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time." - James Baldwin "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time." - James Baldwin

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey B. Perry

    To see reviewers' comments from scholars and labor, left, and anti-white supremacist activists CLICK HERE “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 arresting statement, printed on the back cover of the first volume of The Invention of the White Race by Theodore W. Allen, first published in 1994, reflected the fact that, after twenty-plus years of research in Virgi To see reviewers' comments from scholars and labor, left, and anti-white supremacist activists CLICK HERE “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 arresting statement, printed on the back cover of the first volume of The Invention of the White Race by Theodore W. Allen, first published 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 this volume 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 2) the consequences were not only ruinous to the interests of African-Americans, but was also “disastrous” for the European-American workers. Allen tells the story of the invention of the “white race” in the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Anglo-American plantation colonies. His primary focus is on the pattern-setting Virginia colony, and he pays special attention to the reduction of tenants and wage-laborers in the majority English labor force to chattel bond-servants in the 1620s. In so doing, he emphasizes 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 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. 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. Readers will find that it has profound implications for American History, African-American History, Labor History, American Studies, and “Whiteness” Studies and that it offers important insights in the areas of Caribbean History, Irish History, and African Diaspora Studies. Its influence will continue to grow in the twenty-first century. To assist individual readers, classes, and study groups this new edition includes a new introduction, some new appendices with background on Allen and his other writings, an expanded index, and a new internal study guide. The internal study guide follows the volume chapter-by-chapter and the index includes entries from Allen's extensive notes based on twenty years of primary research. The "Table of Contents" for the volume is included below, towards the bottom of this column. Extraordinary praise for this work is offered from such scholars and labor, left, and anti-white supremacist 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, 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. See Here for these comments

  5. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    What is fascinating here is the autodidactic nature of the author, which should be inspiring to all laypeople interested in the world around them. What is good is the recognition and analysis of complex socio-economic class issues as they intertwined with race in early American history, as well as the detailed look at Virginia in particular. What is less than ideal is the dryness that sometimes borders on tedium, as well as the personal opinions on the works of other historians that add little t What is fascinating here is the autodidactic nature of the author, which should be inspiring to all laypeople interested in the world around them. What is good is the recognition and analysis of complex socio-economic class issues as they intertwined with race in early American history, as well as the detailed look at Virginia in particular. What is less than ideal is the dryness that sometimes borders on tedium, as well as the personal opinions on the works of other historians that add little to the thesis at hand.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Under_rubble

    This is actually the second volume of this essential work.

  7. 5 out of 5

    sologdin

    good stuff. in the US race poltics arise out of a specific set of class-bound circumstances. fine attention to detail and rigorous presentation.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    This is meticulously researched, well-supported, definitely worthwhile, and has many parts that are as dry as unbuttered toast. It's a well-argued history, but it's not really a fun read. This is meticulously researched, well-supported, definitely worthwhile, and has many parts that are as dry as unbuttered toast. It's a well-argued history, but it's not really a fun read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Redpoet

    Tremendous validation of the whole theory of white skin privilege, etc. took a lot of work a d research.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    ...continued from part I. The latter part of Volume II treats the period right after the Civil War, and how the promise and possibilities embodied in breaking up the plantations and distributing the land to poor whites and former slaves ("forty acres and a mule") were dashed and a new regime of slavery without the name was put in place instead. ...continued from part I. The latter part of Volume II treats the period right after the Civil War, and how the promise and possibilities embodied in breaking up the plantations and distributing the land to poor whites and former slaves ("forty acres and a mule") were dashed and a new regime of slavery without the name was put in place instead.

  11. 5 out of 5

    B Conatus

    The second volume is a more detailed investigation of the emergence of whiteness as a race in Virginia. This is a long and super detailed read, but it’s super interesting and well worth a read for those who are interested in the material factors that may have shaped racialized identities in the US.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Allen proves that wealthy white men holding power increased their wealth and power by inventing racism.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Ellis

    I found this to be a fascinating book. It is dense and a somewhat slow read, but the information has added a deeper understanding (for me) of race in the United States. Allen's examination of Protestant English treatment of native Irish in Ireland was particularly interesting as I had no idea that the racism in place there for so long, was as deeply entrenched and all-encompassing as it was. The parallels he draws between the historic Irish condition in Ireland and the historic African American I found this to be a fascinating book. It is dense and a somewhat slow read, but the information has added a deeper understanding (for me) of race in the United States. Allen's examination of Protestant English treatment of native Irish in Ireland was particularly interesting as I had no idea that the racism in place there for so long, was as deeply entrenched and all-encompassing as it was. The parallels he draws between the historic Irish condition in Ireland and the historic African American position in the United States add a new dimension to the story that many of us are told about slavery and race relations in the US.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Allen proves his case. It took two volumes, and studying years of history beyond 17th-century Virginia, but it all works out. There is so much information it is hard to know what to say about it, but I feel there is understanding here that is vitally important to how we need to proceed today.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Wuttipol

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kallie

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kara Gonzales

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  20. 5 out of 5

    Victor L

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

  22. 5 out of 5

    Scot

  23. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shamita Mccoy

  25. 4 out of 5

    T. Smith

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marco Antonelli

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steve Dorner

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dan Siroky

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jill

  30. 4 out of 5

    s54

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