Racial Boundaries: The Origin and Consequences of the Color Line in the USA

4-week reading and discussion group
The Revolutions Study Group

This group is for for anyone who wants to better understand why White and Black retain their significance in U.S. society for so many years after the abolition of slavery. W.E.B. DuBois’ groundbreaking Black Reconstruction, and the recent PBS documentary on the same subject are both useful for these discussions. However, we are now taking on two readings which are keys to unlocking the power of the color line in shaping the political economy our world and in shaping the lives of African Americans. Theodore Allen’s pamphlet “Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race,” from 1975, explores why and how skin color became the basis of a rigid caste system in the U.S. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk is his first important book, takes readers into the world of racial caste as uniquely experienced by African Americans.

Our four week reading sources will be: Theodore W. Allen, “Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race,” first published 1975, 34 pages, available as printed pamphlet and a downloadable PDF (http://readsettlers.org/settlers-data/ii/02_THEODOREWALLEN_ClassStruggleAndTheOriginsOfSlavery_Somerville1976_p34.pdf), and W.E.B Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903, available in all formats including free e-book, 189 pages, in the 1989 Bantam paperback, available in libraries

Admission is sliding scale. No one is turned away for inability to pay

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Class, Race & Gender

Contemporary Capitalism and the Limits of Identity Politics
Six-week session with Dan Karan

The ongoing debate between those arguing for either a class- or identity-based politics has led to a tragic split between forces that ultimately need to come together if each is to realize its goals. But should this even be an “either or” question when considered from the vantage point of trying to build an effective anti-capitalist movement struggling for the liberation of those exploited and oppressed by capital?

What may be surprising to some is that this split is not new and in the U.S. has roots that go back to the nation’s founding if not before. And, in the 19th century, while the Civil War is often referred to as the “second American Revolution” it was really during Reconstruction, the period just after the Civil War, in which a “self-emancipatory” moment opened as former slaves, working class whites and women struggled to realize the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” held out in Declaration of Independence. Yet divisions along class, race and gender lines sealed Reconstruction’s defeat. Why and how was this potentially revolutionary moment defeated and what should this history teach us about the strategies and tactics that the left needs to employ today?

To explore these issues of the intersection of class, race and gender in the US and the consequences of not being able to overcome the divisions that capitalism reinforces and exploits for its own purposes this class will read David Roediger’s recent book on Reconstruction: Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All. This class will be the first in an ongoing series that explore questions of the relationship between class, race, gender and sexuality and how we overcome the divide between those exploited by capitalism and create a genuine anti-capitalist movement of liberation for all.

Dan Karan is a “red diaper baby” born into a communist household (his father worked as an organizer for the Communist Party and both his parents were members for roughly 25 years until leaving in 1956 along with many other comrades in response to Khrushchev’s “On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences” speech about Stalin). Dan’s political activism began at the age of 2 when his parents took him to the 1963 March on Washington. For the last 30 years he has worked for NYC nonprofit housing and community development organizations. He is a proud graduate school dropout who has been studying Marxist theory for more than 4 decades.

Dan Karan is a “red diaper baby” born into a communist household (his father worked as an organizer for the Communist Party and both his parents were members for roughly 25 years until leaving in 1956 along with many other comrades in response to Khrushchev’s “On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences” speech about Stalin). Dan’s political activism began at the age of 2 when his parents took him to the 1963 March on Washington. For the last 30 years he has worked for NYC nonprofit housing and community development organizations. He is a proud graduate school dropout who has been studying Marxist theory for more than 4 decades.

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Marx at 200: Capital, Class and More

A talk and discussion with Kevin B. Anderson

At Marx’s 200th anniversary, it is clear that the emancipation of labor from capitalist alienation and exploitation is a task that still confronts us. Marx’s concept of the worker is not limited to European white males, but includes Irish and Black super-exploited and therefore doubly revolutionary workers, as well as women of all races and nations. But his research and his concept of revolution go further, incorporating a wide range of agrarian noncapitalist societies of his time, from India to Russia and from Algeria to Indigenous peoples of the Americas, often emphasizing their gender relations. In his last, still partially unpublished writings, he turns his gaze eastward and southward. In these regions outside Western Europe, he finds important revolutionary possibilities among peasants and their ancient communistic social structures, even as these are being undermined by their formal subsumption under the rule of capital. In his last published text, he envisions an alliance between these non-working-class strata and the Western European working class.

Kevin B. Anderson is a Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and Feminist Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. He has worked in social and political theory, especially Marx, Hegel, Marxist humanism, the Frankfurt School, Foucault, and the Orientalism debate. Among his most recent books are Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism (with Janet Afary, 2005) and Marx at the Margins: On Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Non-Western Societies (2010/2016), both published by University of Chicago Press. He is active in Los Angeles in the International Marxist-Humanist Organization and in the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice.

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Black Reconstruction in America: W.E.B. DuBois

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Black Reconstruction in America: W.E.B. DuBois

$185.00

Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30PM
February 4 through May 13, 2015
@ The Brooklyn Commons

SKU: 2015W-BLACKRECONST Categories: , , Tags: ,

Description

Black Reconstruction is an essential and primary building block in understanding the culture and politics of the United States. It is also an excellent (arguably the best) place to start understanding the workers movements in the U.S and the historical and current challenges to building a labor movement, and the relationship a real labor movement must have to democratic movements of the oppressed.

In fifteen weeks we will cover the 17 chapters of Black Reconstruction with a concentration on labor organization and the relationship to the fight against slavery, and the revolutionary democratic movement of African Americans.

People interested in this reading group, should get the book and try to read the first two chapters before the first session.

Tim Schermerhorn is a 30-year transit worker and a rank-and-file- oriented organizer throughout that time. He was vice president of Local 100 and vice chairman (chief steward) for train operators. Tim is a founding member of the Black Workers Rank and File Network (at the 2008 Labor Notes Conference) and a Labor Notes Policy Committee Member.

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Black Literature & Revolutionary Consciousness

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Black Literature & Revolutionary Consciousness

$110.00

Mondays from 5:30 to 7:30PM
February 2 through April 6, 2015
at The Commons Brooklyn

Description

I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity. Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star; it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind and moved in every storm.

—Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave

What will you do with your freedom? It is the question inherited by each generation of Black writers. From the antebellum slave-narrative of Frederick Douglass to the modernist tragedies of Toni Morrison the answer demanded a revolutionary consciousness. One could not heal the traumatized Black body and fractured psyche without a prophetic vision of radical change. Literature is the treasure house of that vision as well as the bitter accounting of its toll on our lives.

In this 10 week course, we will learn about literary conventions and aesthetic strategies, the conflict between art and ideology and finally the history of the African-American canon and why it is the shadow text of the Constitution. Among our readings will be Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Frederick Douglass and From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens by 50 Cent.

Nicholas Powers is a poet, journalist and Associate Professor of Literature at SUNY Old Westbury. His second book The Ground Below Zero: 911 to Burning Man, New Orleans to Darfur, Haiti to Occupy Wall Street was published by Upset Press in 2013. His writings have appeared in The Indypendent, The Village Voice, Truth-Out and Alternet.

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Theodore W. Allen’s The Invention of The White Race

Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) was an independent, anti-white supremacist working class scholar. A former coal miner, factory worker, teacher, postal mailhandler, and Brooklyn Public Library worker, Allen pioneered “white skin privilege” analysis in 1965, co-authored White Blindspot in 1967, wrote the ground-breaking Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race in 1975 (Center for Study of Working Class Life, SUNY Stony Brook), and authored the two-volume classic The Invention of the White Race. (1994, 1997; Verso Books, 2012).

JEFFREY B. PERRY edited A Hubert Harrison Reader and authored Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918. Perry also contributed new front and back matter to the new edition of Allen’s The Invention of the White Race and he authored “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy”.

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Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918

Hubert Harrison, (1883-1927) was a brilliant writer, orator, 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 A. Philip Randolph as “the father of Harlem Radicalism.” 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 the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician of the Socialist Party of New York, the founder of the “New Negro” movement, the editor of the “Negro World,” and the principal radical influence on the Garvey movement. A self-described, “radical internationalist,” he was also a highly praised journalist and critic (reportedly the first regular Black book reviewer), a postal labor unionist, a union organizer (with both the Hotel Workers and the Pullman Porters), an IWW supporter, a speaker at the 1913 Paterson strike, a freethinker and early proponent of birth control, a supporter of Black writers and artists, a leading community-based public intellectual, and a bibliophile who helped transform the 135th Street Public Library into an international center for research in Black culture (known today as the world-famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture).

JEFFREY B. PERRY edited A Hubert Harrison Reader and authored Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918. Perry also contributed new front and back matter to the new edition of Allen’s The Invention of the White Race and he authored “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy”.

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