Theodore W. Allen: Working-Class Scholar

Perry, Jeffrey B.

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/11/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21710

Theodore W. Allen was an independent, anti-white supremacist, working-class scholar when he pioneered his "white skin privilege" analysis in the mid-1960s and when he wrote The Invention of the White Race in the 1990s.



Starting in the 1960s he began an important 40-years-long study and reflection on white supremacy, racial oppression and the class struggle in American history. In this he was informed by the civil rights, anti-colonial and national liberation struggles; by his prior experience as a communist, labor activist and student of history; and by close readings of W.E.B. Du Bois' Black Reconstruction and Marxian political economics.

An organizationally independent working-class intellectual, Allen combined the drive to end oppression and exploitation with the thirst for understanding and awareness based on historical evidence and analysis.

In 1966, during what he described as "the changed ambience of the African American Civil Rights struggle... [and] the peace movement," Allen began his historical research in earnest. He was specifically inspired by Du Bois' insights that the South after the Civil War "presented the greatest opportunity for a real national labor movement which the nation ever saw" and that the organized labor movement failed to recognize that "in black slavery and Reconstruction" could be found "the kernel and meaning of the labor movement in the United States."