Educate Against Injustice

Writing is Fighting: Documenting the Long Struggle Against White Supremacy

—Gerald Horne

I have been thinking lately about the intellectual path that has led to the publication of my latest book.[1] For the longest, I was publishing book after book on Black Communists, e.g. the Jamaican sailor, Ferdinand Smith who was a co-founder of the National Maritime Union and for a while, was one of the most powerful individuals in the nation—before he was deported as the Red Scare gained momentum.[2] This was part of a larger intellectual project with a “through line” of seeking to demonstrate not just Black Internationalism but, more specifically, pointing out how during different historical epochs, because of the frequent difficulty in gaining allies domestically, African-Americans sought allies abroad.  In short, I was seeking to construct a wider narrative of how and why White Supremacy began to retreat—both at home and abroad. This involved not just looking to Moscow and the Communist International but sketching how the desperation driven by lynchings and pogroms, led as well to Tokyo[3].  Then there is the strange case of Lawrence Dennis, born as a light-skinned Negro in Jim Crow Atlanta but who decided that life as a man of color was much too taxing, so he “passed” or chose to present as a “white man” with an indecipherable accent, was admitted to Harvard, then Wall Street—before becoming the intellectual godfather of US fascism and conferring with his comrades in Europe, including Benito Mussolini and other leaders in Berlin.[4] Anger with racism and the maltreatment of his darker-skinned relatives drove him into this political corner, and their fate would have worsened their parlous condition even further if his demented political dream had become reality.  

Of course, US Negroes generally did not follow him to Rome (or Berlin)—at least not to the extent they had travelled politically and otherwise to Moscow and Tokyo. Thus, African-Americans stood in strict solidarity with the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920, a lengthening list that included heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson and the father of the Harlem Bard, Langston Hughes.[5] The global pressure on Washington ultimately caused the dam to break, igniting an agonizing retreat from the more egregious aspects of White Supremacy—for example in the 1950s.

However, as I was churning out these books, the thought occurred to me that African-Americans sought leverage against White Supremacy, not just in the 20th Century—but earlier. That led me to a book that examined the close relationship of US Negroes to London during the antebellum era.[6]  This involved not just the Negro flight to Canada, but also torching Washington, DC in league with the redcoats during the War of 1812, hijacking slave ships and sailing into the Bahamas almost bringing the republic and the monarchy to war—and more. As this book was emerging, it occurred to me that—perhaps—a similar trend could be espied earlier. In other words, as the Black Lives Matter Movement was gaining traction, I published a book that challenged the creation myth of the founding of the US—the “Immaculate Conception” thesis—by suggesting that a motive force for the revolt against British rule in 1776 was the desire to preserve and promote slavery in the face of growing abolitionism driven by slave revolts.[7] I was happy to see this controversial thesis reflected in the Pulitzer Prize winning essay of Nikole Hannah-Jones in The New York Times in August 2019 (read commentary about the win here), which impelled this august journal to invite me to a forum on this matter in early March 2020—just before the pandemic driven lockdown—as this publication was being assaulted by Establishment Historians upset with the challenge to holy writ.

Still, it occurred to me that—again—the quest of the enslaved population in North America for global allies preceded 1776.  And this led to the publication of a sweeping study of the entire 17th century, which argued that England was a minor power on the fringes of Europe—until it leaped foursquare into the odious commerce that was the African Slave Trade.[8] 

Yet, again, it occurred to me that I should examine carefully the precursor of the invasion of what is termed Virginia in 1607, which initiates the era of settler colonialism—in which remain ensnared. In part, I argue that in order to understand White Supremacy, one must understand the 16th century religious wars—especially Catholic Spain vs. Protestant England—and how the latter wrong-footed the former by moving toward Pan-Europeanism (and away from religious tests) as a qualifier, which morphs into “whiteness”, then White Supremacy. 

What next? I’m toying with the idea of how US Negroes in the 19th Century wielded Ancient History—especially the glories of Egypt and Ethiopia—as a cudgel against White Supremacy. But whether this project reaches fruition, the point is undeniable that “Writing is Fighting” and as the latter idea suggests, History and Historiography can be tools in the dismantling of White Supremacy.


Gerald Horne is Moores Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, and has published three dozen books including, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the USA and Race War! White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire.   You can explore more of Horne’s books from NYU Press and Monthly Review Press here.



NOTES

[1] The Dawning of the Apocalypse: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism and Capitalism in the Long 16th Century, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2020.

[2] Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica, New York: NYU Press, 2009. 

[3] Facing the Rising Sun: African-Americans, Japan and the Rise of Afro-Asian Solidarity, New York: NYU Press, 2018; Race War! White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire, New York: NYU Press, 2004. 

[4] The Color of Fascism: Lawrence Dennis, Racial Passing and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the United States, New York: NYU Press, 2009. 

[5] Black and Brown: African-Americans and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920, New York:  NYU Press, 2005. 

[6] Negro Comrades of the Crown:  African Americans and the British Empire Fight the British Empire Before Emancipation, New York: NYU Press, 2013.

[7] The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, New York: NYU Press, 2014. 

[8] The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy and Capitalism in 17th Century North America and the Caribbean, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018. 

One thought on “Writing is Fighting: Documenting the Long Struggle Against White Supremacy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *