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Event Series Event Series: Towards a Revolution in Labor History

Towards a Revolution in Labor History

Tue, February 21, 2023 @ 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Free – $75.00
Norfolk, Virginia shipyards, built with chattel bond labor

A reading of Theodore W. Allen’s unpublished manuscript, “Towards a Revolution in Labor History,” a text that challenges “the original sin of ‘white’ labor historiography,” which according to Allen “lies in the misbegotten concept that excludes the Black bond-laborers from the ‘working class.’”

In this heretofore unpublished manuscript, Theodore W. Allen, author of the acclaimed The Invention of the White Race, challenges a new generation of labor historians and activists to break from what he described as “The Great White Assumption … the acceptance of the ‘white’ identity of European Americans of all classes as a natural attribute rather than a social construct.” Allen maintains that this “assumption” has shaped the field of US labor history since the 19th century and “lies at the root of harmful omissions and distortions of the historical record, which need to be criticized and corrected if the study of labor history is to contribute to the development of class consciousness of the American working class and a viable alternative to the ruinous policies of the ruling class.” We will read Allen’s manuscript along with selections from other works by Allen and other labor historians.

Convened with Sean Ahern. Sean was radicalized as an NYC high school student between 1968-1971 and was drawn to activism in labor struggles in the 70s and 80s with the American Postal Workers Union and the Transport Workers. Sean lives on the Lower East Side where he grew up and went to school. Sean met Theodore Allen in 1971, studied with him, and helped to distribute “Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race” (1975), which served as a précis for The Invention of the White Race.