Theodore William Allen: Expert on Bacon's Rebellion

Historians in the News

On Saturday afternoon October 8, 2005, a commemorative ceremony were held for the working class intellectual/activist Theodore William “Ted” Allen (August 23, 1919- January 19, 2005) at West Point, King William County, Virginia. A highlight of the ceremony was the scattering of Allen’s ashes in the York River near where it converges with the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers. This is the location where the final armed holdouts, “Eighty Negroes and Twenty English,” refused to surrender in the last stages of Bacon’s Rebellion (1676-77). During Bacon’s Rebellion thousands of laboring people took up arms against the ruling plantation elite, the capitol (Jamestown) was burned to the ground, rebels controlled 6/7 of the Virginia colony, and Afro- and Euro-American laborers and bond-servants fought side-by-side demanding an end to bondage.

Theodore Allen was an ardent opponent of white supremacy who spent his last fifty years researching and analyzing the historical development and essence of racial oppression and the “white race.” His writings include the influential The Invention of the White Race (Verso: 2 vols., 1994 and 1997) and the ground-breaking Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race (1975), both of which developed his main thesis that the “white race” was invented as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor unrest manifested in the latter (civil war) stages of Bacon’s Rebellion. In these and other writings Allen also describes the systematic extension of privileges to European American laboring people (not promoted out of the working class), how European Americans came to participate in a new multi-class “white” formation (which, he argues, was the necessary pre-condition for the development of the system of racial slavery -- the particular form of racial oppression that developed in the continental plantation colonies), and how the “white race” social control formation became the principal retardant to working class consciousness in the United States.

Ed and Karen Peeples and Cecily and Luis Rodriguez of Richmond organized the afternoon events and hosted a commemorative dinner in the evening. A second highlight of the afternoon activities was the performance of a short play on Bacon’s Rebellion written for the event by the labor activist Gene Bruskin. Despite a severe rainstorm upwards of fifty people participated in the commemorative events including Sean Ahern, Donna Bain, Christopher Brooks, Gene Bruskin, Tony Cosby, Jim Hershman, Njeri Jackson, Charles Johnson, Isidro Martinez, Carolyn and Jerry Mosseller, Eileen O’Brien, Camille Thi Peeples, Eva Pellegrini, Jeff Perry, John Ramsey, Alberto Rodriguez, Marcia Rosenthal, Jonathan Scott, David Slavin, Laverne Byrd Smith, and Linda Vidinha.

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