This is the book review of the second and final volume written by Theodore Allen on the topic of the creation of the white race as a model for United States law. It took me this long to complete it, read through the bibliography and footnotes and then also re-digest the material after the first reading.
My response is that both books were phenomenal. I had no idea the second volume would take shape in the way that it did. The second volume, entitled The Invention of the White Race Volume II: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America gave us five major points that complete the first volume and close the second.
- The natives of the land that would become the United States of America, being on their land and having the advantage of escape back into their environment from enslavement, were not fit for the slavery required by the English.
The English found this out very early. Aboriginals would not submit and often died quickly in captivity, refusing sexual intercourse in front of their captors as well as food and drink.
These same people, who if allowed to escape, would melt back into the local populace and often come back with reinforcements and an onslaught that would often decimate colonies, had to be neutralised rather than enslaved. Later American policies reflected this adjustment.
- poor Irish and indebted English people were imported and then told that they would have to work off their debt but often were tricked and if they were illiterate, they would be kept in perpetual servitude.
Masters in this case would abuse them and sometimes abuse their charges ruthlessly. Originally, indentured servants worked and only had to clear their accounts to then be free to take on property and work the land.
Later, their overseers would forbid them from marriage, owning property and also deprive them of legal protection under the law. This would lead to other pressures, in which Irish/English women would run into the arms of free African, Spanish, Mexican or other brown skinned land owners.
Children that came as a result of these couplings would inherit what wealth or societal values their parents had. A process began in which overseers quickly realised that if something was not done in the coming decades, slaves would outnumber overseers and turn the entire system on its’ head.
- Continued uprisings from Irish and English indentured servants created the necessity overseers needed to look for an alternative. Having already tried the local tribes (which were too strong, proud and still had connections to the land), indentured Irish and English (who led uprisings with their dark skinned counterparts and in many instances married them), English overlords knew that a new paradigm was needed.
The decision was made to begin importing slaves from the continent of Africa. This started around AD 1666 and this proved successful. These slaves had their culture, language and also means of return stripped from them.
Slaves in this case were easier to control than the previous indentured servants, who had families that would ask about them and could often take their grievances to courts that would hear these cases.
There was no such consideration needed for these imported charges but another threat did exist. When slaves did escape, they would often be taken in by free coloured people and given shelter and protection from overseers seeking their property.
- Uprisings began, composed of both freed coloured people and the slaves that had escaped. As the status of “black” started to take shape, both aforementioned groups of people resisted this classification and the shrinking of their rights.
In spite of this, the walls began to close in on both groups and “runners,” those running from their masters, became the same as fugitives and were not only liable to legal brands but even physical brands.
Census records began deleting non-English population statistics in preparation for the creation of “black” people. As the last legal protections for homesteaders and free men were melted away from non-English people, a new complete system had to be created.
- The “white” and “black” races would be created, filling two needs for English people, those being 1) protecting themselves from complete absorption into darker races and 2) guaranteeing their posterity control over the land and its’ varied assets.
In May 1723, a legal definition was fixed in which the ruling class would all be referred to as “white” and enjoy all the fruits of legal protection. Those not enjoying this protection were “blacks,” or referred to as “negroes, mulattoes” and sometimes, “Indians.”
This designation would be permanent and long lasting so that those bearing these titles would have no movement except within the legal framework already established for them. At this point, the reader learns that a “brand” is not just a physical marking put on someone but there are legal brands as well.
Let us go to Governor Gooch, alive at the time of the ratification of this law, who said that the Virginia Assembly had gone to
…fix a perpetual Brand upon free Negroes and Mulattoes…
Devastating as this is, the reader should keep in mind that this would be the same laws referred to in the Dred Scott case. The plaintiff was found to be in error, which should make the reader consider.
This establishes that what he was saying was absolutely correct, but his status as “black” makes him property and property can neither be free nor own property. This same condition continues on even after the drafting of the 13th,14th,15th and 16th amendments.
These amendments might have stopped the importation of slaves that occurred during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, but it did not stop the continued trading in and slavery of a group of legal properties known as “blacks.”
This group of people who have no rights make up the majority of prisoners, offenders, parolees and so forth. This will continue in perpetuity until the whole system is brought down and something else is put in its’ place.
Theodore Allen’s position might have been to show that racism was used by a ruling class and that the Africans imported were the proletariat (Allen was a socialist) but what the book does instead is show the unique conditions in the United States that brought about “white” and “black” people and why this phenomena captivates the world even today.
As terrifying as it is entertaining, this book grabs the attention of the reader and holds it throughout both volumes and at the end renders him reflective. Whether in agreement or disagreement, one certainly has to re-examine his opinions after this Grand Canyon sized weight of information.
 The Invention of the White Race, vol.2, pp. 241-242