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Sat, 08.23.1919

Theodore Allen, Writer, and Activist born

Theodore Allen

*Theodore "Ted" Allen was born on this date in 1919.  He was a white-American intellectual, writer, and activist.  He is best known for his pioneering writings regarding the white race.

Theodore William Allen was born into a middle-class family in Indianapolis, Indiana. His parents were Thomas E. Allen, a sales manager, and Almeda Earl Allen, a housewife; he had a sister Eula May and a brother Tom. The family moved when he was a child to Huntington, West Virginia, where he lived during the Great Depression. When Allen started working soon after high school (deciding that college did not do enough for independent thought), he joined labor unions.

Allen became an early activist and organizer in the labor movement. He joined the American Federation of Musicians Local 362 at age 17 and was soon elected as a delegate to the Huntington Central Labor Union, AFL. He subsequently worked as a coal miner in West Virginia as a member of the United Mine Workers, serving as an organizer and president of one Local and later member of another. He co-developed a trade union organizing program for the Marion County, West Virginia Industrial Union Council, CIO.

In the 1940s, Allen moved to New York City and did industrial-economic research at the Labor Research Association. He taught economics at the Jefferson School of Social Science, founded in New York by the American Communist Party in 1944.  While Allen was part of the faculty, the school closed due to declining membership in the party and pressure from scrutiny by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of Congress, which was conducting hearings during the McCarthy era.  He also taught math and lived at the Crown Heights Yeshiva in Brooklyn and the Grace Church School.

During his more than six decades in New York, Allen was a factory worker, retail clerk, mechanical design draftsman, postal mail handler (and member of the Local of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union), and librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library.  Beginning in 1965, after he conducted decades of research to develop his ideas about the labor, class, and racial history of the United States, Allen began publishing articles.

They were on the concept of white skin privilege for all classes of whites, examining the relation of the working class to white supremacy. He explored this deeper in "White Blindspot" & “Can White Workers/Radicals Be Radicalized?" (1967, 1969), co-authored with Noel Ignatiev. After further research, he published Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race (1975).

He also taught as an adjunct history instructor for one semester at Essex County Community College in Newark, New Jersey. His work since the 1960s was intended to overturn explanations for white supremacy that relied on biology or attributed it to benefits gained by the working class.  Allen emphasized that the "invention of the white race" was related to class struggle and to the ruling class's efforts to maintain social control.

Allen published outside the academic press, and his work was highly influential during the 20th-century civil rights movement. He also documented how Irish immigrants to the U.S. later became "white." An independent, working-class scholar, Allen did the research for the next quarter-century to expand and document his ideas, particularly on the relation of white supremacy to the working class.

His other publications include a two-volume work, The Invention of the White Race (1994 and 1997): “The Invention of the White Race,” Vol. 1: “Racial Oppression and Social Control” (1994, 2012) [3] and “The Invention of the White Race,” Vol. 2: “The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America” (1997, 2012); which explored racial oppression as a system of social control (in Volume 1) and the origin of racial oppression in Anglo-America (in Volume 2). Verso Books republished it in a new expanded edition in November 2012. Theodore Allen died on January 19, 2005.

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