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February 2, 2015  

White Supremacy and the Breech Birth of the Nation

In 1619, a year before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Harbor, Mass., 20 Africans captured by Dutchmen from a Spanish slave ship were sold to colonists at Jamestown, Va. There were various classes of English, Scottish, Irish and other Europeans in Jamestown, but no “white” people, says historian Theodore Allen, whose works, particularly his groundbreaking The Invention of the White Race, are considered seminal to the issue of racism and white supremacy in America. The term “white” appeared for the first time in colonial records 60 years later, Allen writes.

How and why was “whiteness” created? Why the need for classification based on skin color? Why have racism and white supremacy endured?

Our guest, Dr. Jeffrey Perry—an independent, working-class scholar whose work focuses on the role of white supremacy as a retardant to progressive social change—discusses Allen’s and his own work in this area.

Perry preserved and inventoried The Theodore W. Allen Papers, edited and introduced Allen's Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race, and has written introductions and appendices for the new edition of Allen’s two-volume The Invention of the White Race.

He also preserved and inventoried the "Hubert H. Harrison Papers" now at Columbia University, edited A Hubert Harrison Reader, and authored Hubert Harrison:The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918.

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