Invention of the White Race

a reading and discussion group convened by The Revolutions Study Group with Sean Ahern

Since its origin in the class struggles of colonial Virginia and Maryland, the “white race,” the most peculiar aspect of the “Peculiar Institution,” has remained the most contentious and misunderstood identity in American life.

The Invention of the White Race Volumes I & II, Theodore W. Allen’s historical materialist analysis of racial slavery, documents how the plantation elite put in place this system of social control following Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. In the final stage of this uprising, an army of European and African chattel bond laborers burned Jamestown to the ground and temporarily drove Governor Berkeley into exile across the Chesapeake Bay. The terrified planter bourgeoisie, in a deliberate response to this display of labor solidarity, enacted a series of laws and practices in the late 17th and early 18th centuries which implanted a system of ‘white’ racial privileges that enabled the imposition of racial slavery and white male supremacy.

Theodore W Allen’s The Invention of the White Race, particularly Volume 2, subtitled The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, has been widely recognized by activists and scholars alike as a seminal work and deeply radical history. Allen was drawn to study of the “white” race by his engagement in the movements of his time; in West Virginia coal mines, the Congress of Industrial Organization, the Communist Party, the Civil Rights/Black Liberation/anti-war and student led movements of the 1960’s and 70’s and his reading of W.E.B. Du Bois’ Black Reconstruction. Allen had concluded by the mid 1960’s that white supremacism was the central obstacle to progressive movements in American life, past and present, yet the “white” race itself remained the most peculiar, contentious and generally misunderstood “identity,” blocking all efforts to achieve a just society. Accordingly, Allen spent the next 40 years in writing and primary research to discern when, where, how and why the Plantation Bourgeoisie invented this “white” race in colonial Virginia and Maryland (and how and why it has been maintained since then). Through a careful reading of this text supported by discussion, a new narrative of our history emerges that offers strategic guidance to the momentous struggles now unfolding.

Allen concludes Volume II with the following message to a new generation of activists: “Perhaps in the impending renewal of the struggle of ‘the common people’ and the ‘Titans,’ the Great Safety Valve of white-skin privileges may finally come to be seen and rejected by laboring-class European-Americans as the incubus that for three centuries has paralyzed their will in defense of their class interests vis-a-vis those of the ruling class.”

The Revolutions Study Group (started at the Brecht Forum) has met since 2009. The groups has recently completed a year-long study of W.E.B. Dubois’ Black Reconstruction. Participants have come and gone, however the group has held together, studying in depth a wide range of history including the French Revolution, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Mau-Mau Revolt in Kenya, the Haitian Revolution, the 1848 European Revolutions, the May 68 movement in France and the Hot Autumn of Italy and much more.

All fees are sliding scale. No one is turned away for inability to pay. Please write to info@marxedproject.org for more information.

Weekend Special Pass: Austin, Gordon, Marx

For a special price of $10 you can attend all three weekend activities of January 25, 26 and 27.

a. Friday, January 25, 7 to 9:30 pm at The Peoples Forum: Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution
author David Austin
with an introduction by Lewis Gordon

In Dread Poetry and Freedom — the first book dedicated to the work of this ‘political poet par excellence’ – David Austin explores the themes of poetry, political consciousness and social transformation through the prism of Johnson’s work. Drawing from the Bible, reggae and Rastafari, and surrealism, socialism and feminism, and in dialogue with Aime Cesaire and Frantz Fanon, C.L.R. James and Walter Rodney, and W.E.B. Du Bois and the poetry of d’bi young anitafrika, Johnson’s work becomes a crucial point of reflection on the meaning of freedom in this masterful and rich study.

b. Saturday, January 26, 12 noon to 3 pm at Unnameable Books, 600 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, Capital, Volume 1 with the Capital Studies Group

Karl Marx’s Capital remains the fundamental text for understanding how capitalism works. By unraveling the commoditized forms of our interactions with nature and each other, it provides tools to understand capitalism’s astounding innovativeness and productivity, intertwined with growing inequality and misery, alienation, stunting of human potential, and ecological destruction all over the globe.

c. Sunday, January 27, 1 to 3:30 pm at The Peoples Forum: Moving Against the System:The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness
With author and editor David Austin

 

This is a special one ticket price of $10 which is admission to two events and one class. Both Friday and Sunday at The Peoples Forum, Saturday class at Unnameable Books.

Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner

William Styron’s historical novel The Confessions of Nat Turner won the Pulitzer Prize in 1968. The novel made the world conscious of the slave revolt in Virginia led by Turner in 1831. Styron was a white writer from Virginia. In response to the success of Styron’s novel, an anthology of African-American criticism was published by Beacon Press featuring the work 10 different critics. In addition to the criticism of Styron there were a number of African-American writers who were encouraged and praised Styron for his work, most notably James Baldwin. Baldwin predicted that the history of the rebellion would continue to be written for years. This remains true today.

This May, our Thursday literature group will read Styron’s novel, the Beacon Press anthology, William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, as well as the essay Baldwin wrote in defense of Styron. Many profound questions concerning race, class, the rendering of historical presentation, claims on sectors of our shared history, etc. are raised in the novel and in the anthology. We will discuss as many of these questions as possible including having a careful read of Baldwin’s essay on the work. This class is also part of The MEP noting this being a half-century since the pivotal year of 1968.

THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES READING GROUP which has grown from the enthusiastic call for the need of greater understanding of the long history of the peoples of North America and other continents of the world who were of those continents before and remain after the European colonists came to settle and bring this capitalist relations to every corner of the globe. Our group began following a stirring presentation by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz September of 2014 where she introduced An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

Emergence of a New Left: Civil Rights from Reform to Revolution

We begin with Malcolm
Noble Bratton

Two more sessions prior to One-Dimensional Man: February 28 and March 7

Noble Bratton will conduct a 3-week history of the Civil Rights movement with CORE, SNCC and analyzing the growing militancy in African-American life that led to the revolutionary politics of The Black Panther Party as the 60s developed.
Noble Bratton is a graduate of Cornell University and is on the editorial board of Working USA/Labor and Society. He taught a class on the US Presidency at The Brecht Forum. He has participated with the Leo Downes Harlem Y Study Group. He is also a former member of District Council 65 of the UAW, UNITE Local 169.
Readings for the next two weeks will include chapters from Manning Marable’s Race, Reform and Rebellion.

See Something, Say Something (To Benefit Ramsey Orta)

THIS EVENT WILL BE AT VERSO’S LOFT AT 20 JAY STREET, BROOKLYN
Bearing Witness in the Age of Ongoing Police Brutality

With: Kathleen Foster, Nabil Hassein, Ramsey Orta, Josmar Trujillo and Kazembe Balagun

To “bear witness” is to speak truth in the face of power. For many, the Black Lives Matter movement and moment have been defined by everyday folks who have used the tools of social media to document police brutality. These actions have sparked protests and demands of police accountability, while developing a visual record of violence faced by communities of color.

In See Something, Say Something we take the advice of the MTA in asking how ordinary New Yorkers are using community patrols, documentaries and community mapping to make our hoods safer.

This event is a Benefit for Ramsey Orta, who videoed the police murder of Eric Garner, and is scheduled to go to jail October 3. Tonight╒s proceeds will go to Mr. Orta and his family.

Fiction from The Busted Boom

Summer Reading Series
America Between The Wars: Fiction From The Busted Boom
10 sessions with Craig Chisholm and Michael Lardner
Thursdays, July 14 to September 8, 7:30 PM
Fascism has overtaken Europe and the desperate, reeling Americans are being sold a dream through the New Deal in a broad attempt to mitigate empty dinner plates and joblessness for more than one in four. Nearly a million farms are foreclosed. Schools close, kids separate from their parents, migrating in all directions doing whatever it takes just to get by. The 30s were a time of turmoil for most and a decade shaping the terrain of the way life was to be lived on the edge—in shadow or in light. There is no shortage of literature that can provide insight into that era. This summer’s reading group will look at the following five works of fiction: The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes, Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, The Unpossessed by Tess Slesinger, In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck, and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. Poems and vignettes of the period will be shared, each participant is welcome to be part of the sharing.

Craig Chisholm is a writer and editor at Gigantic Sequins. For much of the past year Craig has been active with the Indigenous Peoples’ History Reading Group. Michael Lardner has spent years doing typography and during the summers help coordinate these literature sessions.