History lesson: 'Invention of the White Race' by Theodore Allen is worth discovering, then studying, and finally discussing...

Ted Allen, whose historical study on the "invention of the white race" reveals more than the ruling class of the 21st Century wants most people to know about American history.When I first met Ted Allen more than 40 years ago, I was studying racial segregation in Chicago's schools and writing a series of articles for Substance called "How Chicago Segregates." Then, as now, segregation in Chicago was in the present tense. I was also trying to get a better understanding of the history and praxis of racism in the USA, both during and after slavery. Chicago, following the "Great Migration" during World War I, turned out to have invented the massive racial segregation that became the standard norm for the North. And in the years after Brown v. Board of Education supposedly outlawed segregation, the "Chicago Model" became the American Plan. Virtually every northern city witnessed the expansion of a black ghetto along the same lines that the ghetto in Chicago had been created and expanded by the city's capitalist ruling class. The "Black Metropolis" was no accident, any more than the world of "A Raisin in the Sun" just happened.

Chicago was as deliberate, virtually scientific, in its planning and execution of segregation against black people as the South had been with Jim Crow. But because Chicago was a northern city, and because Chicago had figured out how to create power enclaves for black leaders (from William Dawson on), there was little base from which to challenge racial segregation in Chicago's schools in those days. The massive challenges to the symptoms of segregation, like the "Willis Wagons," became an official part of the history, even though the segregation continued as massively as ever. Willis Wagons were eliminated; brand new segregated all-black schools took their places.

But to understand Chicago's racism, it was also necessary to understand how the United States of America did its white supremacy, from the days of chattel slavery onward to the present. And that history was almost as hidden from first view as the history of school segregation that I was writing and we were publishing in Substance.

Ted Allen's complete book.But there were people writing those histories, and none did the jobs as well as Ted Allen, now known at "Theodore H. Allen." And today anyone can get the full study of that history in Ted Allen's books on the "invention of the white race."

Ted Allen's study of Bacon's Rebellion and how the owners of Virginia color coded slavery in the 17th Century was a major contribution to understanding. But Allen's review of the facts of history never seemed to become widespread, and by the 1990s, when all of the racist and anti-union neoliberal "reforms" (school, housing, and welfare) were implemented by Bill Clinton in the USA and Tony Blair in Britain, Ted Allen's histories were being wiped out as carefully as Substance was being blacklisted by Chicago's corporate media elites.

And so we entered the 21st Century with many people crippled because they couldn't easily learn the history of the invention of racism -- specifically white supremacy and the utilization of white skin privilege -- by the plutocracy over centuries in the USA.

Our brothers and sisters in Newark (where I attended a segregated Catholic high school graduating in 1964) have now released more information we need to study and learn about these things.


55,000 VIEWS Video on Theodore W. Allens The Invention of the White Race, by Jeffrey B. Perry. Please VIEW, SHARE, and DISCUSS. The video opens with some comments on Hubert Harrison, the father of Harlem radicalism. Allen and Harrison are two of the most important thinkers on race and class in the 20th Century. Read them! They offer profound insights for those struggling for change today. This video of a slide presentation/talk on Theodore W. Allens The Invention of the White Race (2 vols., Verso Books) just passed the 55,000 viewer mark -- For information on The Invention of the White Race Vol. II: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America" (including comments from scholars and activists and Table of Contents) see

For information on The Invention of the White Race Vol. I: Racial Oppression and Social Control" (including comments from scholars and activists and Table of Contents) published by Verso Books see --

For information on Allens Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race Part 1 see and for Part 2 see For an in-depth treatment of the development of the work of Theodore W. Allen 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 at the top left at or at Cultural Logic at For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison see For comments from scholars and activists on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) see and see

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison see

"The Invention Of The White Race" by Theodore W. Allen. Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry

"The Invention of the White Race" (Verso Books) by Theodore W. Allen, especially Vol. II: "The Origi...


July 9, 2015 at 10:40 AM

By: Kim Scipes

Theodore Allen and "The Invention of the White Race"

While I never got to meet Ted Allen--he's dead now--I have read this incredible two volume study: it's excellent, and I cannot recommend it more highly. Jeff Perry has been trying to get Allen's work into the mainstream, and I have met him and heard his one hour talk about Allen's book--again, excellent.

This work is a two volume study. Vol 1 is about the establishment of PROTESTANT supremacy in Ireland, where the British Protestants ruled over the Irish Catholics in Ireland. (You cannot generalize the Irish experience, as most people try to do: the experiences of Irish Catholics is qualitatively different from Irish Protestants, who we generally refer to as Scots-Irish, BOTH in Ireland before immigration and in the US until probably the 1970s.)

The second volume is on the establishment of WHITE supremacy here in the US. As Allen shows, with over 20 years of research in the Colonial Virginia archives, white supremacy was a CONSCIOUS decision by white elites in Virginia to ensure that whites and blacks never again united, as during Bacon's Rebellion, which almost overthrew the colonial government. Until Bacon's Rebellion in the 1680s, most blacks were NOT chattel slaves--they came here like most whites, as indentured servants. After the Rebellion, the white elites consciously began removing "rights" for blacks, while not removing any for whites. So, what they did was not ELEVATE whites over blacks, but LOWERED blacks BELOW whites. (Blacks could still vote in Virginia until that right was taken away in 1723.)

The conscious plan: separate blacks and whites, tell the whites that they were better than blacks--although most whites couldn't afford a pot to piss on--and treat them less badly, while SYSTEMATICALLY repressing blacks, and then telling poor whites they better help keep blacks down or they might loose what little they still maintained. Unfortunately, it still works today.

Reading Ted Allen's study is a way to begin to understand "racial relations" in this country. Again, highly recommended!

July 14, 2015 at 9:32 PM

By: Sean I Ahern

Ted Allen

Thanks George for encouraging the Substance audience to read Teds work. Socrates said The unexamined life is not worth living. Ted dedicated himself to the examination of the white race for good reason. He believed the white race and the incubus of the white identity (not whiteness) has thwarted every popular uprising and movement of the people including rank and file teacher unionism here in NYC.

I met Allen in 1972 and studied with him when he was formulating his thesis on the invention of the "white" race. I credit Ted for helping me understand what puzzled and tormented me about my family and my class. When, how and why had all these European American working people been turned into whites? When, how and why did people trade in the struggle for freedom and justice for an all white school, an all white job, an all white community? How did the defense of white racial privileges sideline the common interest of working people in an equitable sharing of wealth in America?

Only 4 years before I met Ted, the UFT in 1968 precipitated what became a hate strike against the Black community school board located in Ocean Hill Brownsville, Brooklyn. In the course of this strike and its aftermath Shanker and his supporters established the Unity Caucus machine that controls the UFT, and by extention NYSUT and the AFT to this day.

Todays Unity Caucus is racially diverse but it straddles past and present by whitewashing its own past. Its evolution is thwarted by denial. The Unity Caucus has never turned a critical eye on it own actions during the 1968 strike (those leaders who did, like ONeill, Parrish and others were purged). To the contrary, The UFT/AFT today has a trove of house scholars and publicists with links to neo liberal and neo conservative think tanks that specialize in writing approved histories of education, so called Teacher Wars, and UFT history. They promote a narrative of the 1968 NYC teachers strikes, the Civil Rights and Black Liberation movement in which the UFT and Albert Shanker were the good guys and the Black Nationalists were the bad guys.

I was a 10th grade NYC public high school student living on the lower east side Manhattan in 1968 in one of the three community control districts (Two Bridges, Harlem and Ocean Hill Brownsville). In the spring of 1968, only weeks after the assassination of MLK, the UFT led a strike limited to the Ocean Hill Brownsville community control district. By September 68 the strike was called city wide. The Black Panther Party Chapter in my HS together with some progressive teachers crossed the picket lines and opened up our school as a "liberation" school for two months. Ted lived in Crown Heights Brooklyn, not far from Ocean Hill Brownsville.

My school and neighborhood was fairly integrated at the time with the exception of the Seward Park Mitchell Llama Cooperatives where many teachers lived. I didn't attend many classes during the strike and enjoyed an extended summer vacation but it was the beginning of an education that left me pretty disgusted about identifying with the "white" race.

I was still looking for answers 4 years later when I met Ted. He was a veteran of the class struggle (Ted was in his early 50's at the time), a West Virginia former communist coal miner and self taught historian. Ted spoke in a mild lilting mountain twang and explained how appeals to white supremacy and the white blindspot (a term he had adapted from Du Bois Black Reconstruction) had undermined Reconstruction, Populism, the CIO and his own UMW. Wallace, Nixon and their Southern Strategy was doing the same right before our eyes.

White supremacy would keep on being revolution insurance for the bourgeosie as long as the so called "white" radicals, socialists, unionists remained deaf dumb and blind to the central role played by a system of racial privileges which was designed to divide and control the working class. There was no end run, no artful dodge around the racial privilege system. "Unite and Fight," 30 for 40wouldn't cut it. A true radical had to go after the system of privileges itself which was the main form of social control and the weakest link. The police, prisons and armed forces of the state were also about social control, but this, Ted pointed out, as he lowered his voice, raised an eyebrow and focused intently on his cohort of young radicals, isnt the weakest link. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Aim the main blow at the weakest link. It was Teds lesson 101 on strategy which took as a starting point, an understanding of the central role of white supremacy in our history.

Far too many white radicals of the 60s and 70s and their self professed vanguard parties were in his view all dressed up with no place to go. They didnt pay much attention to Ted after 69. They read a few things by Marx, Lenin and Mao and figured they had a formula. But you know all this history and lived through it yourself.

The 1968 teachers strike ripped the working class of NYC further apart and set the stage for the Banker Coup in 1975 and the rise of neo liberalism. 20,000 teachers were laid off and loads more of municipal workers including cops and firefighters. Shanker went on to be a national spokesperson against affirmative action after engineering his own little coup over his former mentor AFT President David Seldon. But the community control struggle opened doors for Black and Latino teachers to enter the system. Over the past 10 years under mayoral dictatorship however, the pattern of gradual increase of Black and Latino teachers hired has been reversed.

I had stayed in contact with Ted while he was researching and writing The Invention of the White Race. When I fell into teaching in 1999 (It was never my calling) I discussed my new profession with Ted and a book I read by Jerald Podair a young historian, also a former NYC public school student in 1968: The Strike That Changed New York, Blacks, Whites and the Ocean Hill Brownsville Crisis.

Ted was always willing to talk and listen. He was a kind and generous man whose counsel I sorely miss. I thought that Podair, not a radical by any measure, had made a fair effort to set out the facts of the strike which and for this he was given the silent treatment by the UFT. (In contrast to the writings of Kahlenberg and Goldstein which are loaded with the approved spin and silences so prized by the Unity machine) Ted and Jeffrey Perry encouraged me to write a review which I did which was published in 2004 in Socialism and Democracy.

In 2002 Bloomberg became Mayor and the UFT supported his bid for mayoral dictatorship over the schools which were now made up of over 80% Latino, Black and Asian students. Also in 2002 thousands of NYC educators were fired because they had not taken or passed a teacher certification exam that had been made mandatory. The UFT made no protest nor did they seek to grandfather in those dues paying members who had served for years with good records. They were disproportionately Black and Latino teachers. They filed a class action suit with no support from the UFT ( see Gulino v BOE - ). In 2012 the Plaintiffs finally won in a Federal District Court. Judge Kimba Wood, ruled that the certification test had not been validated, it had a discriminatory impact and the Plaintiffs constituted a class of approximately 14,000 Black and Latino individuals which included former members of the UFT. Still silence from the UFT. NYSED for its part rushed in to formulate new certification exams with help from Pearson (LAST-2) which was subsequently challenged and judged to be similar in its discriminatory effects and lack of validation as LAST-1.

Bloombergs pal, Steiner, now in charge of CUNYs graduate education schools devised new entrance requirements and exams which have now also come before the court for review. Weingarten choose this time to pose with former NYC DOE Chancellor Joel Klein (who had gone on to be consigliere for Rupert Murdoch) in a joint call for a national teacher certification exam. How many thousands of European Americans suffered a loss of employment or demotion due to these certification exams? Youd think that the UFT and the opposition would be demanding an end to certification exams altogether and their replacement by a well-defined apprenticeship program to certify and grant tenure based on classroom practice that does not disproportionately screen out Blacks and Latinos and working class white youth who may also have spent a few years at a community college but no, only silence and blank stares.

Podairs book led me to dig up current stats on hiring at the DOE. In 2004 I circulated my first finding which showed a dramatic drop in the number of Blacks and Latinos hired in Bloombergs first year of mayoral control. Sam Anderson interested a reporter at the Amsterdam News to write the first story on what he termed the Disappearing of Black and Latino educators. We have continued to draw attention to the Disappearing and have little by little chipped away at the indifference and willful blindness that we first encountered from both the UFT leadership and assorted opposition groups.

10 years later we are once again digging for the new hiring stats which are never just released. The UFT leadership is crowing over their new found partners in DiBlasio and Farina, but what has actually been done to stop and reverse the disappearing of Black and Latino educators in the first two years of the new administration in NYC? Well see. When Im tired and disgusted I remember Teds advice to me when I started on this track Dont give up.


Sean Ahern

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