On the Origin of Racism in the United States:


by Bob Wing

March 1975






                                                The harvest truly is plenteous but the

                                                labourers are few; pray ye therefore the

                                                Lord of the harvest, that he will send

                                                forth labourers into his harvest.








  1. Towards a Marxist theory of the Origin of Racism
  2. “negro”: From non-christian to non-English to non-white
  3. the Servant v. Slave distinction


The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that racism in the United States had a definite historical origin and that, therefore, it may also have a definite historical demise. Since my paper, like all historical analyses, will hinge critically on philosophical and conceptual assump­tions, it seems appropriate to attempt to spell out some of these assump­tions from the outset.

Racism in the United States permeates not only the everyday lives of individuals, but also has had a profound impact on politics, economics, and culture throughout U.S. history. This fact has called forth many vol­umes concerning racism, but the bulk of this work has been limited to em­pirical studies of the effects of racism upon its victims. On the other hand, the theoretical analysis of racism requisite to discern the histor­ical origin of racism, its mode of reproduction and, therefore, how we might proceed to undertake the dismantling of racism, has been quite re­strained in quantity and, unfortunately, deficient in quality.

Racism has habitually been conceived in ways which render its analysis very perplexing or even impossible. Many have concentrated on racism as a set of ideas, either a systematic “ideology,” or the scattered ideas of in­dividuals.1 From this point of view, however, it is very difficult to eluc­idate why such ideas ever came into being in the first place, or how they became so virulently all-pervasive in the United States. Instead, racial categories, that is, the classification of humans into “races” (e.g., “negro” or “black,” and “white”) as a potent social determination, are invested with the force of Kant’s transcendental apperception.

The view that race is somehow inherent in human thinking is further confounded by the idea that “race relations” have been a dominant force throughout world history. From this standpoint, racism is reputed to be the oppression of one “race” by another and to have prevailed ever since peoples of varying skin-colors crossed paths, regardless of whether such contacts were religious, ethnic, national, cultural or class in their deter­mination.2 Here, not only have racial categories been consecrated as a transcendental form of thought, but the oppression of one “race” by another is accommodated as a behavioral imperative of humankind.

Another common view is that today’s racism is the consequence of some prior racial antagonism; e.g., black oppression as a remnant of slavery. But such a view of history cannot comprehend the extinction or decay of some historical phenomena, on the one hand, or the transformation, coming into being, or invigoration of other phenomena, on the other, that constitutes the process of history. If racism were mechanistically related to slavery, it seems that the real question would be why racism was not extinguished along with slavery.

In any case, the attempt to analyze racism in such ahistorical ways resolves precious little and, in fact, even promotes the general pessimism that racism can never be eliminated.3 The barrier of race could never be torn down if racial categories were somehow inherent in the structure of the human mind or if “racial oppression” were an imperative of human be­havior. And clearly slavery did occur, a fact which we are helpless to reverse. At best such notions of racism promote utopian visions of “racial equality,” but generally we are left with the idea that racism is beyond eradication, that it is a natural condition of human being. In this sense, such views are really updated versions of eighteenth and nineteenth-century racist ideology.

Perhaps the root of the ideological failing in such analyses of racism lies in the neglection to criticize the dialectic of racial categories in the United States:

The failure to proceed with a dialectical analysis of racial categories puts us in the compromised position of rejecting the practical consequence of racism while simultaneously ac­cepting the theoretical premise of racism. As a result, the pre-racist past and post-racist future are seen through the tinted glass of the present racist mode of thought, and the historical specificity of the origin and demise of racism becomes hopelessly obscured.4

Perhaps this can be more convincingly explicated through an analysis of the dialectic of racial categories.5

Possibly the most prevalent misapprehension of racial categories is racial categories as a natural (genetic) concept. But such a view is man­ifestly erroneous. For example, we know that in the U.S. a person with the slightest perceptible “tinge” of African blood is considered “black,” while only those who are ostensibly “pure” are allowed to be “white.” Moreover, the polarization of racial categories into two hostile camps without the elaboration of “intermediate” types is unique to the United States. The English-speaking Caribbean has a clearly distinct category of “mulatto,” Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Latin America has multi-various classifica­tions between black and white, and even South Africa has the category of “coloured.”6

Thus, racial categories are not a scientific classification scheme of natural science. Instead, they harbor intrinsically the chauvinistic logic of “pure” vs. “contaminated” or “clean” vs. “dirty.” Racial categories are social categories which make use of, and give birth to, vulgarized concep­tions of mankind’s genetic variation. Some social scientists, like Sidney Mintz and W.E.B. DuBois, have actually reached similar conclusions yet failed to recognize the import of their findings.7

Another current misconception holds that racial categories express con­tinental origin: e.g., European descent or African descent. But this gene­alogical view of race is also one-sided: it ignores the fact that most African descendants are also European descendants in the U.S. Thus, it is easily exploded by various studies of the genealogical background of North Americans.

One such study, for example, concluded that 21% of whites are part-­African and 72% of blacks are part-European.8 If these figures are accur­ate, the majority of U.S. citizens of mixed European-African ancestry are whites! At any rate, it should be obvious that what is important about racism is not that it divides people by continental origin, but that it promotes and enforces a fallacious belief about peoples’ genealogical her­itage: racism even teaches members of the same family to hate each other and deny their common kinship.9

So, racism-conditioned thought, i.e. racial categories as they have developed and been sustained in the United States, is a form of thought which is inherently chauvinistic. This thought proclaims the purity of the “white race” and the contamination of the “black race” with such social efficacy and brutality that nationality, class solidarity, and even the family have hitherto been forced to capitulate in the face of its inexor­able humankind-splitting logic. Indeed, racial categories in the United States are intrinsically racist categories.

Thus, racial categories in the U.S. are not natural categories, and racism is not the mere misuse of such natural categories. In fact, I believe it can be established that racism is an historically developed social phe­nomenon, that it had an origin in a definite historical process, and that it therefore may have a demise in a definite historical process as well. The facts of history indicate that the concept of “race,” far from being an innate category present in all historical epochs, was itself a product of the relation which only subsequently became known as “race relations.” So, after first making the distinction between racial categories and race re­lations, the theory and practice in racism, we can define racism as the unity of racial categories and race relations. Further, the origin of racism can now be conceived as the historical process, i.e., the social practice, which produced racial categories. After all, the emergence of the intrinsically racist dialectical opposition of black and white was a dependable testimony that white superiority and black inferiority had entered the historical stage with social validity and ideological force.

Consequently the origin of racism should not be sought in the study of race relations or racist thought in isolation, but rather must focus on the racial formation within the overall socioeconomic formation, i.e., the de­velopment of the mode of production. In a word, our thesis is that the ad­vent of an economic structure (the plantation system based on commercial agri­culture) which demanded wage-labor, coupled with the concrete historical cir­cumstances of Virginia (and the southern continental colonies) — namely a shortage of wage-laborers — made the development of slavery a necessity. The production of racial categories was a necessary ideological reflection of the need to perpetuate this labor force from generation to generation.


This study will concentrate on seventeenth-century Virginia. It was in Virginia that slavery and racism developed due fundamentally to indigen­ous, internal influences rather than being borrowed from the English, Spanish or Dutch colonies. Moreover, Professor Jordan suggests that his much vaunted Elizabethan racism was more or less absent, that Virginia (and Maryland10) made its “decisions concerning Negroes while relatively virginal, relatively free from external influence and from firm preconceptions.”11 In Virginia, therefore, we can see most clearly the development of a society firmly ground­ed in the concrete conditions of colonial life.

More than that, Virginia was perhaps the most developed colony, socio-­economically and politically speaking, of the continental colonies throughout the seventeenth and at least the early eighteenth century. Bacon’s Rebellion, a result of this political-economic maturation, both preceded and was porten­tous of the analogous colonial revolts of 1688. Indeed, Virginia may be said to have played a “leadership” role in our century. At any rate, I believe it to be a legitimate assertion that the development of slavery and racism in Virginia was the key to those two phenomena becoming such integral and in­tractable components of American life.

  1. “negro”- From non-Christian to non-English to non-white12

Thus far and, indeed, throughout this paper, much attention has been focused on racial categories. One way to concisely summarize the purpose of this paper is as an attempt to analyze why the meaning of “negro” changed, and what significance these categorical metamorphoses had. My attitude on this question, or at least that which I am striving to emulate, was eluci­dated by Friedrich Engels in a review of Marx’s A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

The logical method of approach was therefore the only suit­able one. This, however, is indeed nothing but the historical method, only stripped of the historical form and diverting chance occurrences. The point where this history begins must also be the starting point of the train of thought, and its further progress will be simply the reflection, in abstract and theoretically consistent form, of the historical course. Though the reflection is corrected, it is corrected in accor­dance with laws provided by the actual historical course, since each factor can be examined at the stage of development where it reaches its full maturity, its classical form. [And later] One can see that with this method, the logical exposition need by no means be confined to the purely abstract sphere. On the contrary, it requires historical illustration and continuous contact with reality. 13

Indeed, the dialectic of theory and practice, in this case of the logical and the historical, lies at the very heart of the Marxist method.

On the question now at hand, I concur with Professor Jordan’s observa­tion14 that initially the most common opposition was negro vs. Christian (i.e. religious categories) and that by mid-century there was definite move­ment toward English vs. negro (i.e. national categories). Finally, after 1682, the racial categories of negro vs. white superseded the others.

Nonetheless, there is substantial semantic overlap from one histori­cal juncture to another in seventeenth-century Virginia. This overlap is not surprising given the meaning of the ascription “Christian” in contemporary England and Virginia. At that time, Christian” did not have the present signification of individual beliefs, but instead connoted membership in a community ruled by the Church of England. It was generally assumed that ev­eryone belonged to the Church unless explicit reference to the contrary was made. Hence, baptism was spiritual initiation (conversion) and social assim­ilation rolled into one. The dialectic of accountable and accounted for had sprung from the obligation of the subject to the worldly kingdom of God, but it now began to translated itself into the duty of the citizen of a secular nation.

The import of the shift from negro vs. Christian to the negro vs. Eng­lish opposition, then, lies mainly in the fact that it reflects a changing self-identification in accordance with the English Civil War, on the one hand, and the development of Virginia civil society on the other. I will also try to demonstrate that the production of racial categories was a con­scious socioeconomic policy of an indigenous Virginia planter class for that planter class.

The ideological use of religion and nationality, however, has persisted long after they were superseded by race as socially valid categories in race relations. Thus, in order to ascertain the significance of the changing sem­antics for the material life of Virginia, it is necessary to analyze the nature of the changing real relations. By so doing, it can be determined whether the logical movement of categories accurately reflected the historical movement of real relations, or whether it was merely an incidental semantic flow.

The following will be examined in an attempt to separate the socially determinate categories from the innocuous semantics: (1) the general process of socioeconomic formation of Virginia; (2) the extent to which religion, nationality, or race actually determined the social being of individuals in different periods; (3) the process of enslavement of the “negroes”; and (4) the associations among the laboring people.

  1. the Servant-Slave Distinction

Before entering a discussion of the development of slavery or the evo­lution of the status of the “negro” in seventeenth-century Virginia, it seems appropriate to examine the meaning of the terms “slave” and “servant”: what was the difference between a servant and a slave in seventeenth-century Virginia?

In this connection, I believe that the servant-slave distinction was not always clear, that the original colonizers of Virginia considered slaves to be just another kind of servant. If this is true, then the servant-slave dis­tinction was, at least initially, not mutually exclusive. Instead, there could be servants who were slaves as well as servants who were not slaves. In fact, these two categories did not achieve a clear-cut bifurcation until well into the last half of the seventeenth century.

The socioeconomic status of “slave” was not firmly fixed in Virginia law until the beginning of the eighteenth century.15 Therefore, in studying serv­itude and slavery in the seventeenth century, one must bear in mind that the concept “slave” was probably more semantic than juridical. Hence, one must look into the semantics of the seventeenth century to capture its meaning.

In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, “the antithesis of ‘free’ was not ‘slave’ but unfree,16 and indeed the term was used loosely to describe diverse types of unfreedom, both in Virginia and England. For example, an English statute provided that, upon proof of guilt, a vagrant could be branded with the letter “V” and adjudged a “slave” for two years. And if such “slaves” were to run away, they might legally be rendered “to be the saide Masters Slave for ever.”17 In 1627, Peter Heylyn spoke of “that ignominious word, Slave: whereby we use to call ignoble fellowes and the more base sort of people.18 The Irish must have been counted among these “base” people as the transportation of Irish servants to the New World was often re­ferred to as the “slave trade.”19 Rumors that “all servants who are sent to Virginia are sold as slaves” were being circulated in England at least as late as 1649.20

Nonetheless, “servant” and “slave” have an important semantic differ­ence in the English language. “Servant” is derived from the Latin word, servire (to serve), and does not always imply social degradation; e.g., “your faithful servant always,” “civil servant,” “servant of God,” etc. On the other hand, “slave” comes from the word Slav, referring to captives of Slavic origin in eastern Europe during the Middle Ages.21 From this point of view, it seems reasonable that, for seventeenth-century Virginians, “slave” referred to the social status assigned to these captives. A slave was a captive used as a servant; that is, a slave becomes a servant. (Though, of course, not all servants were slaves.22) Moreover, slavery “appeared to rest upon the ‘per­petual enmity’ which existed between Christians on the one hand and ‘infidels’ and ‘pagans’ on the other.” “Clearly slavery was tinged by the religious disjunction.”23

This interpretation helps to explain the widespread allusion to penal servitude as slavery24 and the use of such phrases as “negroes who are incap­able of making satisfaction by addition of a time” or “to serve his said master…for the time of his natural Life” rather than the term “slave” in Virginia laws until the last third or so of the seventeenth century.25 That “slave” meant the captivity of an infidel is also perhaps the appropriate un­derstanding of Indian slavery,26 and such an interpretation clarifies the meaning expressed in such passages as: “Jacob a negro slaue and seruant to Nathaniel Vtye.”27

The significance of the foregoing is that the absence of mutually exclu­sive social connotations of “slave” and “servant” reflected the social fact that there was no fully distinct condition of slavery in early Virginia and that later there was indeed a momentous socioeconomic process which for­ced the negro servant to be transformed into the negro slave. This process, too, was faithfully reflected in the evolution of “slave” to indicate the now familiar social status of slavery. While later the development of what is now called Negro slavery, and the historical process for its development, will be traced, here I would like to point out a rather crucial socioeconomic aspect of the later servant vs. slave distinction.

Socio-economically speaking, “servant” is defined in terms of interper­sonal relations, and “servants as a class” may have conceptual, but not cat­egorical meaning. In other words, the servant question is immediately a ques­tion of the interpersonal privilege-obligation dialectic and not always a societal question.

On the other hand, the individual juridical aspect of slavery ‑‑ the relation of slave‑owner to slave ‑‑ was usually handled in accordance with general private property rights. One of the advantages of having slaves instead of servants lies in the guaranteed absence of ecclesiastical or feudal interference into this interpersonal matter, here interpreted as a relation between an owning person and an owned thing.29 Confusion on this score is perhaps the reason for the proliferation (and failure) of gradual abolitionist and colonizationist proposals to buy freedom for the slaves rather than revise the complex system of interpersonal privilege‑obligation. (That is, the revolutionary overthrow of the slave system.)

Thus, when one speaks of the development of slavery in what became the thirteen United States, it is pointless to dwell on the life of slaves in isolation or merely the words in statute books. Instead, the emergence of slavery was no less than a certain maturing of consciously felt needs, a socioeconomic policy. In other words, instead of describing slavery as the appearance or even the prevalence of slaves (or of “negroes”), one must seek the social formational dynamic in which slave‑owning became a necessary condition for the production and reproduction of a social class. With this in mind, I will show that the emergence of slavery in Virginia was practically synonymous with the rise of the plantation economy as the then viable mode of production.




  1. 1619‑1640: the feudal constitution
  2. 1640‑1660: development of civil society


“The servant problem, or rather, the problem of service, in the early colonial days defied solution, but necessity caused nine or ten varieties of servitor to be evolved in Virginia, most of them existing in the other colonies also. These varieties, arranged approximately in order of social precedence” were: the white indentured servants; the white servants without indentures,

voluntary; the white servants without indentures, involuntary; Christian negro servants; Indian servants; mulatto servants; Indian slaves; negro slaves.1 In what follows, I should like to offer an interpretation of the socio‑historical process of which these changing varieties were an essential part, and the ideological transformations intrinsic to these developments, concentrating on the changing meaning of “slave” and “negro.”

  1. 1619‑1640

At its outset, the colony of Virginia was an attempt by the London Virginia Company to establish a commercial outpost in the Americas in a bid to get a foothold in the American trade and to establish a modest settlement for the commercial agents and Company landholders. England, however, lacked the military or economic power for such an undertaking to meet success.2 Nonetheless, prior to the 1640’s, Virginia sought to develop itself as an extension of Europe with a “transplanted” social order from (quasi) feudal England.3 As a result, it did not look to slave labor as a potential source of labor‑power, even though slaves were occasionally acquired from the Spanish and Dutch. Indentured servitude was the predominant form of labor which “in Virginia had crystallized into a definite system by 1619, the year of the first negro importation, and it was easier to incorporate the negroes into that system than to put them in a class apart.”4 In other words, there was little problem in using these slaves as servants within the framework of the essentially feudal constitution: the African slave became a negro servant.

In this period, Virginia had no slave status in its legal definitions. Instead, “slave” was virtually synonymous with social disenfranchisement due to religious considerations, especially due to the state of being unbaptized. Thus, an ancient “blue law” of the colony of Virginia runs: “Every person to go to Church Sundays and Holy days of lye neck and heels on the Corps du Guard the Night following and be a Slave the week following Second Offence a Month third a Year and a Day. 10th May 1618.5 The connection between “slave” and non‑Christian or, perhaps, “captive” (imprisonment), was the ruling rationale.

However, such laws were probably aimed at Indians or errant Christians rather than Africans. African slaves were usually acquired from the Spanish and Dutch, and most of them were probably Christianized before arriving in Virginia. The law of England that “a slave who had been christened or baptized became ‘infranchised’6 held sway in Virginia, too. This is demonstrated by a court case of 1624 in which “John Phillip A negro Christened in England 12 yeers since” acted as a witness in the trial of an Englishman, a duty scarcely to be confused with that of a chattel.7 Thus it seems that most African slaves arriving before 1640 probably became “Christian negro servants.

The scant evidence that exists of the “negro’s” status in this early period seems to support this claim. Of the original twenty “negars” brought into Virginia in August of 1619, eleven of their names are known and all suggest that they were baptized.8 Also, according to the “Lists of living and dead in Virginia” in 1623, and the “Muster Rolls of the Settlements in Virginia,” a census made in 1624‑25, there were twenty‑three Africans in the colony, all of whom were listed as servants, the same designation used for English Christian servants.9 In 1625, “ye negro caled by the name of brase” was awarded to Lady Yardley who was to pay him “monthly for his labor forty pownd waight of good merchantable tobacco.” Subsequently Brase was declared by the General Court to “belonge to Sr ffrancis Wyatt, Governor &c., As his servant…”10 In fact, it was not until 1639 that negroes were distinguished from English Christian servants in law,11 and a “negro” was not a “slave” in law until 1660.12

In this period, negro vs. Christian was the dominant opposition. Moreover, I have tried to show that religious categories were truly valid in social practice by the fact that the negro servants were “enfranchised” because they were christians.13 However, English vs. negro and Christian vs. negro overlapped for reasons earlier explained.14 For the record, in 1629 every commander of the several plantations was ordered to “take a generall muster of all the inhabitants men woemen and Children as well Englishe as Negroes.”15

  1. 1640‑1660

The London Virginia Company folded in 1624, and by the 1630’s few of Virginia’s original governing elite, which had been “a direct transference to Virginia of the upper levels of the English social hierarchy,”16 remained. This fact was an indication of the essential failure to transplant England’s (quasi) feudal relations and institutions to Virginia, and the abortion of the Company’s attempt to establish an important center of American trade on the North American continent.

Thus, in the period up to about 1660, the socioeconomic direction of Virginia took a different course. English high society left Virginia to the frontiersmen, while England itself was embroiled in wars with the Dutch as well as dramatic internal political and social upheaval. No colonial policy was evolved as the colony was left to develop more or less independently throughout the Cromwell Interregnum.

Meanwhile the new leaders, whose ascendence “rested on their ability to wring material gain from the wilderness,” who were “tough, unsentimental, quick‑tempered, crudely ambitious men concerned with profits and increased landholdings,” set out to conquer the frontier.

The defeat of the united Indians led by Opechancanough in the war of 1644‑1646 eliminated the Indians as an imminent threat to the colony’s survival. Indeed, the Indians tributary to the colony diminished from 10,000 at the colony’s inception, to perhaps only three or four thousand dispersed18 in nineteen tribes by 1670. In this significant period of social and economic formation, Virginia’s English population rose from 8000 in 1640 to 40,000 in 1670 in an area consisting of twenty counties.19 Tobacco production skyrocketed from 272,300 pounds in 1631 to 17,559,000 pounds by 1672.20

The widespread planting of tobacco and the increased power of a group of men who made profits by producing this commodity had important consequences for the condition of the labor counterparts of these planters. Indeed, this appears to be the period of permanent low social stigma being attached to the indentured servants and the advent of negro servants for life. Also, the sheer numbers of “negroes” multiplied times thirteen from 1640 to 1670.21

In 1639/40 the first law depriving negroes of the rights enjoyed by other servants was promulgated: “All persons except negroes to be provided with arms and ammunition or be fined.22 The first evidence of the existence of negro lifetime servants is found in 1640 when “a negro named John Punch” was one of three servants” who together ran away to Maryland. Upon their capture, John Punch was singled out to “serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural Life here or elsewhere.”23 Estate inventories and wills provide further proof of negro servants for life (as well as of negroes being regular servants).24

By 1652, we also have the earliest evidence of servitude‑for‑life being inheritable. In that year, William Whittington sold to John Pott “one Negro girle named Jowan; aged about Ten yeares and with her Issue and produce her (or either of them) for their Life tyme.”25

But servitude‑for‑life was not a general, but rather a particular condition of negroes in this period. There were negroes serving with indentures, negro freemen, and even negroes who owned servants.26 Here, however, I would like to focus on a specific case in order to gain insight into the changing meaning of “slave” and “negro.”

What makes this case particularly arresting is that while indicating the continuing power of religion as a social determinant,27 it also reveals the beginning of its decline. Corresponding with the growth of Virginia civil society, legal considerations were replacing religious ones: the freedom of Graweere’s child had to be bought, not conferred by baptism.

John Graweere being a negro servant … having a yotmd child which of a negro woman belonging to Lieut. Robert Sheppar he desired should be made a Christian … by reason whereof he the said negro did for his said child purchase its freedom… this court hath therefore ordered that the child shall be frie and remain at the disposing and education of the said Graweere … who undertaketh to see it brought up in the Christian religion.28

The supplanting of religion by secular legalities is admittedly only foreshadowed in this court case. Nonetheless, it is this trend toward secularization, part and parcel of the socioeconomic process of the time, together with the intensification of English nationalism associated with the English Civil War, which accounts for a relative predominance of the national ethnic over the religious ethnic in regards to the negro vs. Christian and negro vs. English oppositions by the 1660’s. As well, this evolution of society would soon produce “slave” as a social‑legal category devoid of its earlier religious connotations.

As far as legal statutes were concerned, Negroes were still almost indistinguishable from other indentured servants. Three grounds are generally cited by those who dispute this point: (1) that negroes were debarred from bearing arms; (2) that negro women, unlike English women, were tithable and therefore probably worked as field laborers; and (3) that Christians were being ostracized for having sexual relations with negroes.

The law of 1639/40 pertinent to the first claim does not actually disallow arms‑bearing by negroes, though perhaps that was its intent; it merely exempts negroes from being fined if they fail “to be provided with arms and ammunition.30 The second ground is also greatly mitigated by a subsequent law which recognized that the practice of employing English women as agricultural laborers was being used as a ploy to “avoyd the payment of levies,” and therefore legislated that “all women servants whose common employment is working in the crop shalbe reputed tythable.31 As for the question of the “anti‑miscegenation” laws, it is unclear whether they opposed fornication, illegitimate child‑bearing, freemen marrying servants, secret marriage among servants, liaisons between Christians and non‑Christians, or were against “race mixing.” At any rate, most of these (with the conspicuous exception of the latter) carried explicit sanctions32 and it requires a stretching of the evidence to compare these early laws with the blatantly racist legislation of later years.33 In sum, these early legal discriminations, such as they were, were not of a qualitative nature; they did not create a separate legal existence for negroes.

Nevertheless, our greatest interest has been to demonstrate both a logical and real correlation between the English Civil War and the socioeconomic formation of Virginia, i.e., the development of Virginia civil society led by a group of men whose social and economic pre‑eminence depended upon the expansion of tobacco production (and therefore increased labor exploitation) on the one hand, with the degradation of the status of servants in general and of some negroes to servitude‑for‑life (in some cases hereditary) and the replacement of religion by secular legal considerations and nationality concerning “negro” and “slave,” on the other.





  1. 1660‑1676: incipient plantation economy
  2. Rise of the planter class: Bacon’s Rebellion
  3. Advent of racial slavery
  4. Associations among the laborers
  5. Summary


  1. 1660‑1676

The king was restored in England in 1660, prognosticating the close of a period of relatively independent development for Virginia. The Navigation Acts were passed, the Act of 1673 establishing the real beginnings of an English colonial civil service bureaucracy in the colony. Moreover, “most of Virginia’s greatest eighteenth‑century names, such as Bland, Burwell, Byrd, Carter, Digges, Ludwell, and Mason, appear in the colony for the first time within ten years either side of 1655.”l These newly immigrated wealthy farmers had come to dominate Virginia’s economic life, and through their commercial and political ties to the Restoration, captured political power in the 1660’s. Virginia, its relative independence lost, was in search of a new political‑economic viability, and both the recently restored Crown and Virginia’s new leaders anticipated the tightening of its colonial relation to the king to provide this new “reason for being.”

This was a period of the establishment of the first large plantations, the incubation of the planter class, and the emergence of a Crown‑dependent clique within this class that would dominate Virginia until Bacon’s Rebellion. The incipient plantation system, or, rather, the ascending captains of that system, the planter class, was concomitantly confronted with a labor problem and were, apparently consciously, attempting to secure a permanent labor counterpart suitable to the increasingly insistent demands of the incipient new mode of production.

The qualitative increase in the quantity of court cases and statute laws dealing with the negroes after 1660 mirrored the determined but labyrinthine campaign launched by the planters to clinch such a labor force. The first achievement was the nullification in 1667 of religious conversion as an escape route from slavery, a measure which found logical reflection in the supersession of the negro vs. Christian opposition (religious categories) by the dialectical opposition of negro vs. English (national categories). Similarly, the socioeconomic movement produced a social status of slave completely distinct from servitude which also found expression in the logical movement: a secular legal basis for slavery was constructed and the semantic bifurcation and mutual exclusiveness of “slave” and “servant” came into being. Nevertheless, a momentous historical event, which demarcates the present period from the succeeding one, was necessary to evoke the advent of racial slavery.

While the first reference to a mulatto as a “slave” in law was made in 1655/56,2 I should like to direct attention to a law of 1659/60 which seems to indicate that the Virginia Assembly was actually beginning to encourage the importation of “negro slaves.” Here the “Dutch or other forreiners” need “pay only the impost of two shillings per hogshead” of tobacco rather than the normal duty of ten shillings, provided they pay with “negro slaves.”3

The first definite statutory allusion to a Virginia negro as a lifetime servant came in 1660/61,4 but the elaborated and amended version of 1661/62 is more instructive. “In case any English servant shall run away in company of any negroes who are incapable of making satisfaction by addition of a time, the “English” must serve the time that the “negroes” would “if they had not beene slaves, every Christian in company serving his proportion; and if the negroes be lost or dye in such time of their being run away, the Christian servants” must “either pay fower thousand five hundred pounds of tobacco and caske or fower yeares service for every negro soe lost or dead.5

What is arresting here is the confused and shifting semantics of “English,” “Christian,” “negroes who are incapable of making satisfaction by addition of a time,” and “slave.” In the first place, “English” and “Christian” are used interchangeably. Secondly, a separate category of social status, “slave,” is making its inaugural appearance alongside servant and lifetime servant (i.e., “negroes incapable of making satisfaction by addition of a time”). Perhaps the condition of lifetime servitude for negroes6 had become so general that the category of “slave” was produced, or maybe the “slave” was something much more than a lifetime servant (e.g., inheritable, fewer civil rights, etc.)? Thirdly, a subtle person vs. thing distinction is being made; i.e., an accountability on the part of the “English servant” or “Christian” for the negro lifetime servants or slaves. (Is this the Whiteman’s Burden in its incipient stage?) And finally, the wording of this law seems to imply that neither lifetime servitude nor slavery was the general condition of negroes.

A few other cases illuminate the intensifyingly conscious need of the planter class to generalize and eternalize negro slavery. In 1659/60, no servant entering Virginia “without indentures, of what Christian nation soever, shall serve longer than those of our own country, of like age.”7 We see here the application of the quasi‑racial category “of what Christian nation soever” and also, perhaps, the introduction of the codification of a general discrimination between those originated from Christian nations and those not, regardless of whether those from non‑Christian nations might be converted. But the employment of this quasi‑racial category seems to have a rather accidental quality since social practice had not yet endowed such categories with social validity. For example, in 1661/62, “METAPPIN a Powhatan Indian” although “being sold for life time…it is ordered that the said Indian be free, he speaking perfectly the English tongue and desiring baptism.”8 (This case is also remarkable for its explicit use of a national criterion for manumission.)

By 1661/62 another important stride towards general negro slavery was effected: now “all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother.”9 Carl Degler finds this “an interesting and unexplained departure from the common law and a reversion to Roman law,” as well as contrary to the custom of Maryland.10 But the compelling need for unfree, permanent labor seems to provide a quite “explained” reason for this unique law.

However, despite the movement away from religious categories toward national categories, some negroes were still being manumitted because they were christians.12 Perhaps the planters thought that they had finally legalized the enslavement of all negroes (that were not already free) when in 1667 a law was enacted to the effect that:

the conferring of baptisme doth not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or ffreedome; that diverse masters, ffreed from this doubt, may more carefully endeavor the propagation of Christianity … 13

However, social practice was to prove the validity of the logical deduction that to negate the maxim “infidels shall be slaves” is not quite the same as saying “a negro shall be presumed a slave.” Rather, such negation merely means that baptism can no longer automatically free a negro.

Indeed, the effort to enslave all negroes remained piecemeal. In 1668, negro women, “though permitted to enjoy their ffreedome yet ought not in all respects to be admitted to a full fruition of the exemptions and impunities [immunities?] of the English, and are still lyable to payment of taxes.”14 In 1669, a slave resisting his master could be lawfully exterminated “since it cannot be presumed that prepensed malice (which alone makes murther ffelony) should induce any man to destroye his owne estate.15 Religion was subsumed under nationality in 1670 when “free negroes and Indians, “though baptized and enjoyned their owne ffreedome,” were prohibited from the “purchase of christians, but yet not debarred from buying any of their owne nation.16 Thus, even though negroes and Indians were baptized, they were excluded from being christians” on the basis of their nationality.

Perhaps the earliest systematic attempt to reduce all negroes (not already free) to slavery came in 1670:

… all servants not being Christians imported into this colony by shipping shalbe slaves for their lives; but what shall come by land shall serve, if boyes or girles, untill thirty years of age, if men or women twelve yeares and no longer.17

Here non‑English, non‑Christians were further subdivided between those imported by sea (Africans) and those imported by land (Indians). Why this division was made is obscure, at least to me, but the use of the term “servant” was probably already anachronistic since “slave” was by then in wide usage. In any case, this distinction in the manner of importation seems to be the first quasi‑racial (i.e., indirect method of designating racial) determination of slavery in law. Soon negro or mulatto was to replace the manner of importation in legal categories about slavery. Only then can we say that a negro is presumed a slave.

Indeed, the path to racial categories remained tortuous since such a “peculiar” form of thought was so entirely alien. Christian and English (or Irish, Scotch, etc.) were traditional identifications which readily evoked a more or less precise meaning: at any rate, there was little problem in knowing who was Christian or who was English. But what was a “white”? It is debatable whether white was the actual color of the English skin (nor were all English skins the same hue), and what about fair‑complexioned mulattos? Moreover, it must have been a hard pill to swallow to group one’s “Proud” English heritage with that of the “slavish” Irish or Scotch (or for the latter two to identify themselves with their oppressor) on such spurious and complicated grounds as “race.” The necessity for a permanent, unfree, mobile slave labor force demanded by the bourgeois economic structure of the plantation system, combined with the absence of wage‑labor and the unviability of European or Indian slavery,18 however, was to prove sufficiently compelling to awaken the creativity” of the human brain and induce the production of racial categories. The production of these categories was no “unthinking decision” at all, but rather a necessary and conscious ideological‑‑manifestation of a new social class whose political‑economic sustenance depended upon the generalization of negro slavery and which had labored much to arrive at the proper ideological formula to realize this goal.

It still remained for this new social class to become the masters of Virginia society so that it could command socioeconomic policy and impose its class will on the whole society. The production of racial categories was a radical ideological transformation as it superseded traditional religious and national determinations. The advent of racial slavery, that is, the hereditary enslavement of humans determined fundamentally by an ideologically‑determined (non‑biological) perception of skin‑color, was also a radical break with the past. Similarly, the key event in the historical process which elevated to the ruling class that social class which was responsible for racial slavery was necessarily a radical rupture with the past; in fact, Bacon’s Rebellion must be considered a social revolution.19

  1. Rise of the Planter Class: Bacon’s Rebellion

The Virginia planter class which came to prominence after 1660 was by no means an homogeneous entity. Governor Berkeley and his Green Spring faction had established themselves as an entrenched hierarchy within the newly risen gentry and had alienated the vast majority of planters by striving to accumulate exclusive personal power and privilege, both economically and politically. While this faction itself was no feudal class, its power rested on the extension of feudal prerogatives from the Crown, the feudal land titles of their ancestors to Virginia land, lands granted them by the Crown, and the power to distribute land as well as other political and economic privileges to their relatives and friends.20 This clique would restrict the expansion of the colony as well as the opening of new political, economic, and social opportunities, for these would undermine their monopoly of privilege.

Simultaneously, the expansion and maturation of Virginia society were giving birth to a new planter class whose class interests were opposed to the privileged Green Spring faction. The very conditions of existence and growth of this incipient indigenous planter class (the North American version of Marx’s capitalist farmer2l) might well be characterized as independent Virginian as opposed to English or colonial Virginian. More concretely, this class was forced to the interior to gain the territory upon which to execute profitable planting and establish a base of political power. It was interested in free trade to increase demand, stimulate production, and obtain the best price for their tobacco on the world market, as well as to gain access to the cheapest manufactured goods. This indigenous planter class sought not to enter the Berkeley clique (although some individuals may have), but rather to abolish the supremacy of feudal prerogatives, the colonial hierarchy, and the arbitrary rule of privileged persons altogether. They attempted to solve the indigenous problems of Virginia which restricted its growth. Political power was necessary to accomplish these ends.

The struggle between the Green Spring faction and the incipient indigenous planter class, a struggle of classes, flared into open revolt in Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. This event signaled the rise of the planter class which, as indicated earlier, is a key part of our analysis of the origin of racism. Let us, therefore, take a closer look at this portentous event in American history.

Since “the choice tidewater land as well as the choice offices had been spoken for” by the Berkeley group22 local leaders, newcomers, and the popular masses were increasingly forced to the frontier for land and livelihood as well as political opportunity.23 The average acreage patented in the years 1666 to 1679 was double the size of grants between 1634 and 1650.24 Thus it was inevitable that as the hierarchy within the gentry solidified in the 1670’s, “jealous” planters and others hungry for land forged west in an intensifying expansion, resulting in further aggression and encroachment on the Indians’ lands. In mid‑1675, increasingly frequent and violent exchanges occurred between the Indians and colonists, the latter not always scrupulously distinguishing between the “friendly” and “non‑friendly” or the “guilty” and “nonguilty” Indians. To Bacon and his fellow frontiersmen, a campaign against “all Indians in general, for that they were all Enemies” was necessary.25

On the other hand, Berkeley’s policy of stabilizing the borders was a conservative one favoring the established tidewater planters. His faction “assumed that the colony’s prosperity depended upon its ability to serve the economic interests of England rather than its ability to become more self‑sufficient”26 and realized that its continued dominance of political‑economic power necessitated the restriction of the growth of the frontier. As confrontations amplified, the charge was repeatedly made that “the Governor for the lucre of the Beaver and otter trade &c with the Indians, rather sought to protect the Indians than them [the frontiersmen].

The situation was worsened by the outbreak of King Philip’s War in the summer of 1675 in New England which had repercussions throughout the colonies. Partially due to this, the Virginia frontier traders (such as Bacon) were completely prohibited from the Indian trade in favor of fully‑controlled government trade, and the warfare intensified with devastating effects on plantation life.28

In 1676 the people took this matter, essential to the political and economic growth and development of the planter class, into their own hands and launched an armed offensive against the Indians in a central part of what was to become known as Bacon’s Rebellion.

The political power of the Green Spring faction, unified through patronage and kinship, was manifested most clearly through the Council, which was appointed by the Governor and originally conceived to comprise the whole government. As the Berkeley group came to dominate the centralized organs of colonial power, local offices, especially the county courts, became the organs of the leading local families of the planter class. The county courts, created in 1634 to administer the expanding population, “emerged by 1662 as the units of government whose wide authority touched the colonists’ lives far more immediately than did that of the Assembly or Governor.” For its part, the House of Burgesses began meeting separately from the Council in 1663, and occasionally voiced limited planter interests. The Governor and Council, however, remained the main initiators of legislation.29

So Virginia’s political life was also an arena of conflict between the indigenous planter class and the Crown‑dependent Green Spring faction. The Restoration in England, the concentration of central colonial power in the hands of the Berkelians (the Long Assembly convened in 1661), and the dispersion of local power to the planters matured simultaneously. This dispersion within the centralization of Virginia’s political power, a direct parallel with the economic situation, was pregnant with the conflict which burst into armed struggle in 1676. This alignment of forces was further revealed in the post‑Rebellion period by the Crown’s “assault on the Virginia Assembly after 1676 (which] contrasted sharply with the Stuart attitude between the Restoration and Bacon’s Rebellion.”36

However, the political constellation included a third group of vast importance, the popular masses.31 Indeed, “by all hands, as alsoe by the Governors owne report, that of above fifteen Thousand, there are not above five hundred persons untainted in this rebellion.”32 Small planters, yeoman farmers, servants and slaves, while joining the more substantial planters in opposition to the Berkeley faction, also assailed the local privileges of their allies.33 However, the masses, dispersed, leaderless, and unorganized, were generally led by the local planters as the Green Spring oligarchy was the first and most important obstacle to their advancement.

At any rate, the indigenous planter class was able to unite around it other planters who had been proscribed from the privileged positions bestowed by the Crown, the English monopoly merchants (one of the social props of the Crown), and the Green Spring group. They opposed the monopoly over inside information and priority on the English market, privileged access to colonial ‘political office, privy influence on English colonial policy as well as that of the colony itself, and hierarchical domination of the fertile tidewater land, the Indian trade and control of the flow of goods in and out of the colonies exercised by the ruling Berkeley clique.

But the indigenous planter class was small in number, and the conditions for consciousness of its aims, let alone victory for its ultimate cause, were not present for another hundred years. The “Rebellion produced no real program of reform, no ideology, not even any revolutionary slogans.”34 Instead, there were repeated claims of acting on behalf of the king, anti‑Indian tirades and jealous‑sounding political denunciations. The planter class was still a class‑in‑itself, and not yet a class‑for‑itself.35

This was the period of the rise and consolidation of English mercantilism, not its disintegration. With the growing efficiency and extension of the tobacco market which England could command in the battle for world supremacy, and the developing English hegemony in the African slave trade‑‑all supported by the burgeoning English productive capacity‑‑Virginia was in no position seriously to consider breaking away. But Bacon’s Rebellion, along with the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution, was the key event in providing the political basis of a new socioeconomic relation of global division of labor for the English empire.

The tenuous, inefficient imperial connection of pre‑1676 based on the arbitrary rule of personal cliques was coming to an end and being replaced by a systematic colonial relation carried out by English economic policy, the Virginia planter class, and the rule of law. The Navigation Acts, first constructed mainly to shut the Dutch out of the American trade, were not to become obsolete or ineffective as had so many previous trade regulations. Instead, bulwarked by the great productive, political, and military power of England, they became important actors in the integration of Virginia into the new global division of labor of English colonialism. Previously the tobacco trade and the Navigation Acts had provided revenue for the Crown to attempt to assert its independence from Parliament and to enrich the monopoly merchants. Now they became integral aspects of a systematic colonial relation with fundamental importance for both economies and the empire in general. Virginia had found a new economic viability on a much larger scale.

Thus, what Bailyn describes as “the leveling at the top of the social and political hierarchy” in Virginia and political power becoming “diffused throughout the upper stratum of society” was something much more than the appearance of benevolent political leaders. The direct rule of the Crown and a clique based on the extension of English feudal prerogatives was replaced by rule through the Virginia planter class.36 John Rainbolt commented thusly on this political transformation: “In no other period or province did the relationship between ruler and ruled and the role of government alter so markedly as in Virginia between the departure of Governor William Berkeley in 1676 and the administration of Alexander Spotswood from 1710‑1722.”37 Institutionally this change was symbolized by the fact that the Council gradually lost its effective authority and increasingly had to assert itself through alignment with the House of Burgesses.

Bacon’s Rebellion was an historic event. It was the opening gun of American political self‑assertion and found an echo in similar colonial revolts, especially during the Glorious Revolution. Moreover, the class which ruled the south, and shared rule of North America for almost 200 years was doing its formational work.

Moreover, this Virginia planter class was not principally a creation of the mother country. On the contrary, both the origin and future, politically, economically, and socially, of this class was fundamentally rooted in the growth and development of the colony. As such, after Bacon’s Rebellion, the planters were both able and willing to forge the most favorable conditions for the production and reproduction of their social class. Transcendent among these conditions was a new form of labor to supersede indentured servitude, one that would be permanent, cheap, and stable. Racial slavery was to be the answer. The advent of racial categories, however, not only reflected the conscious creation of general negro slavery within the colony, but also insured the constant replenishment of this labor force from Africa and guaranteed that any white, regardless of their nationality, could emigrate to Virginia without fear of being enslaved. It was thus no accident that slavery and racial categories congealed in this period as part and parcel of the formation of this slaveholding class. The origin of racism in the U.S. was part of a conscious socioeconomic policy of the planter class.

  1. The Advent of Racial Slavery

Despite the accelerating “progress” of the planters’ efforts to legislate general negro slavery, especially in the law of 1670, the establishment of racial slavery was not accomplished until after Bacon’s Rebellion'(for the reasons stated above), in 1682. The law of 1670 had left some loopholes to avoid slavery that negroes were evidently able to exploit. The most important beneficiaries of these loopholes were those Africans who had culturally or religiously converted before landing in Virginia. Such a one must have been the “Spanish Mullatto, by name Anthonio” sold by John Endicott in 1678 “But for Tenn yeares” after which “to be a free man to go wherever he pleaseth.” Another Antonio was sold by John Saffin “to serve … during the terme of Tenn Yeare… an noe longer.38

Similarly this interval saw many negro indentured servants manumitted39 and as late as 1680, negroes could still sue in court, serve as witnesses, enjoy a modicum of freedom of movement, exercise at least some measure of self protection, and own property.40 Nonetheless, the trend toward general negro slavery was by now incontrovertible. Perhaps the negroes themselves sensed this, since the first law motivated by fear of slave insurrection was forced by the fact that:

… many negroes have lately beene, and now are out in rebellion in sundry parts of this country…from whome many mischeifes of very dangerous consequences may arise to the country if either other negroes, Indians or servants should happen to fly forth and joyne them.41

In 1682, racial categories were born, and by that fact slavery became the permanent status of (virtually) all blacks:

…all servants except Turkes and Moores, whilest in amity with his majesty which … shall be brought or imported into this country, either by sea or land, whether Negroes, Moors, Mollatoes or Indians, who and whose parentage and native country are not Christian at the time of their first purchase of such servant by some Christian, although afterwards, and before such their importation and bringing into this country, they shall be converted to the Christian faith… are hereby adjudged, deemed and taken, and shall be adjudged, deemed and taken to be slaves to all intents and purposes, any law, usage or custome to the contrary notwithstanding.42

The enactment of this law, which made express and extended criticism of the weaknesses of its predecessor of 1670, could not have been more explicit. In the words of the Handlins (who were mistaken in their dating by some twenty years), the race of slavery now became the slavery of race.

In 1680, many of the rights negroes had enjoyed in common with other servants began to be eroded41 and after 1690 the status of the negroes “began to assume its now familiar character as a complete deprivation of rights.,44 “An act for suppressing outlying Slaves” in 1691 45 covered all the bases and betrayed a rabid racial chauvinism conspicuously absent from the rather detached language of previous laws and court cases. Thus it was eminently appropriate that the category “white” would make its formal debut in this statute as it further demonstrates the intrinsic chauvinism of racial categories as analyzed in the introduction.

In the first place, this act virtually enslaved the bastard children of a negro or mulatto and an English woman by providing that they become servants until they “attaine the age of thirty yeares.” No evidence to the effect that any such children were ever manumitted has been located. The English woman involved in such liaisons, for her part, was to be fined 15 pounds or made a servant to the Church for five years (and five additional years if she was already a servant). This provision foreclosed the possibility that negroes could continue to be manumitted (or indented) following the condition of their free (or indentured) mother as would otherwise have been the case according to the law of 1661/62 discussed above.

Secondly, “forasmuch as great inconveniences may happen to this country by the setting of negroes and mulattoes free,” none may be manumitted unless their transportation out of the country is provided for in advance. It seems that the planters were taking out insurance against the newly instituted racial logic.46 Finally, the term “white” appears in the midst of a previously unheard of chauvinism that is worth recording:

And for prevention of that abominable mixture and spurious issue which hereafter may increase in this dominion, as well by negroes, mulattoes, and Indians‑intermarrying with English, or other white women, as by their unlawfull accompanying with one another, Be it enacted… that for the time to come, whatsoever English or other white man or woman being free shall intermarry with a negroe, mulatto, or Indian man or woman bond or free shall within three months after such marriage be banished and removed from this dominion forever….

It was left to the comprehensive Act of 1705 to collate, synthesize, systematize, and deepen the previous slave laws, especially those of 1680, 1682, and 1691, to construct the first North American slave code, a code which would not have been at all anachronistic in the nineteenth century.47 The capturing of the African slave trade in the eighteenth century, especially the Spanish Asiento, which English merchants parlayed into an unprecedentedly lucrative business was merely the icing on the cake for the planter class. Slavery had already become a conscious socioeconomic policy of Virginia for Virginia. Along with other world‑historic events, “the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins, signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production,”48 not only in Europe, but also in North America.

  1. Associations among the Laborers

There has been dispute over whether or not the condition of the white servants improved as that of the negroes deteriorated after 1660. There are some signs that the status of servants may have worsened, such as the legalization of corporal punishment for running away, the raising of the age of manumission of child servants from twenty‑one to twenty‑four, the restriction of servant movement on the highways, and increased punishment in time for running away.49 But the decided trend after 1660, and especially after 1680, seems rather to have been one of improvement. By 1705, servants were no longer transferrable, were not to be whipped without a court order and were protected from being forced into contract renewals.50 At any rate, Winthrop Jordan may have the best answer: “White servants did not suffer this debasement. Rather, their position improved, partly for the reason that they were not Negroes …. Increasingly, white men were more clearly free because Negroes had become so clearly slave.51

Perhaps more pertinent in this connection is the fact that the white servants themselves began to act like they were so superior to negroes that they should no longer associate with them by the mid‑1680’s. Prior to that decade there is ample evidence of negro‑christian (or English) cooperation and liaison. This data comes in the form of alarm at what must have been widespread “inter‑mixing” to have inspired so many laws against it, copious testimony to joint flight, as well as planter fear of English‑negro‑Indian conspiracies.

English‑negro unity was most strikingly demonstrated in the narrative of Bacon’s Rebellion by Thomas Grantham, a contemporary English sea‑captain. Grantham arrived in the colony after Bacon’s death, when the rebels were divided over whether or not to continue their fight. At the plantation of Colonel John West, the rebels’ “Chief Garrison and Magazine,” Grantham encountered some 400 English and Negroes in Armes.” He was able to convince most of the insurgents to surrender, but “eighty Negroes and Twenty English…would not deliver their Armes.” Eventually he persuaded these, too, to capitulate. 53 Nevertheless, the eighty negroes who initially refused to yield alone accounted for about 3% of the 2500 negroes then in the colony, and as much a 9% of the negro males. 54

But negroes and servants also participated jointly in the burning of Jamestown during the Rebellion: “Bacon’s followers having deserted him he had proclaimed liberty to the Servants and Slaves which chiefly formed his army when he burnt James Towne.” 55 Moreover, racism-conditioned condemnation of the Rebels was extremely sparse, a silence made all the more strange by the fact that it had long since been illegal for negroes to bear arms. Perhaps historian T.H. Breen is justified to conclude that “the planters may have taken for granted the cooperation of slaves, servants, and poor freedmen.” 56

“In 1681, five years after Bacon’s death, and as late as the tobacco-cutting riots of 1682, “Virginia’s leaders were still worried about the possibility of a general servant uprising.” But, “after 1682 the character of social violence changed in Virginia. Never again would the ‘giddy multitude’ — indentured servants, black slaves, and poor freemen — make common cause against the colony’s rulers.” 57

This remarkable change among Virginia’s laborers was virtually simultaneous with the advent of racial categories and constitutes convincing evidence that the production of racial categories accurately signaled a qualitative change in the real relations in Virginia. Indeed, the evidence seems to indicate that the origin of racism was cognized by all the contemporaries involved: the planters consciously created racial slavery, the proliferation of negro revolt, or the fear of them, accompanied the establishment of general negro slavery, 58 and white laborers ended their association with their erstwhile negro allies in the 1680’s.

  1. Summary

So the events of 1640 to 1680 fundamentally altered the direction of Virginia’s development. Cromwell, the Restoration, the Navigation Acts, and Bacon’s Rebellion were landmarks in the process of the emergence of a new social order led by a new ruling indigenous planter class. Externally, the colony found a “permanent” niche in the widening commercial network of English mercantilism by specializing in one crop, tobacco. Internally, the social structure of the one-crop economy required a new form of labor to supersede indentured servitude. However, the conditions for wage-labor were not present. The abundance of cheap, readily available land coupled with the population scarcity made it impossible to force free men to work for wages when they might instead install themselves as independent free farmers in their own right. A system of unfree labor was thus required to ensure a stable, cheap labor force. On the other hand, the expansionist nature of the new plantation economy prohibited primogeniture and entail, and the tying of the laborer to the soil would have been counterproductive. The plantation system was definitely a bourgeois mode of production (producing commodities for profit, not use-values). Negro slavery in the new world, then, combined the “best”
of the old (feudal) and new (capitalist) worlds to meet the labor needs of the colonies. Slave labor was permanently unfree, yet mobile and immediately alienable. In other words, social development now forced the negro servant to become a slave.

In this process, the social necessity of evolving racial categories is apparent. These categories met with explicit legal codification in 1705:

“And for clearing all manner of doubts which hereafter may happen to arise upon the construction of this act, or any other act, who shall be accounted a mulatto, Be it enacted and declared and it is hereby enacted and declared, That the child of an Indian and the child, grand child, or great grand child, of a negro shall be deemed, accounted, held and taken to be a mulatto.”59

The advantages of racial categories are obviously great: one who was not himself a captive could now be legally declared to be a slave if he has a negro in his genealogical closet. Actually, however, I am unaware of any cases in which genealogy was examined to determine social status. Instead, race has always been a matter of an ideologically‑conditioned perception of physiognomy.

Further, once the social validity of racial categories was established, there was no barrier to conversion (of religion) or naturalization (of nationality, especially language, culture, etc.). As a matter of fact, as the seventeenth century progressed, substantial numbers of negroes became assimilated to the English colonial culture and increasing numbers of non‑English Europeans immigrated to the colonies. Thus, the former religious and national marks of enslavement were disintegrating with the proliferation of second‑generation Africans, and the establishment of the bourgeois order required that traditional ethnics be subordinated in the process of national formations. Racism, then, was a key socioeconomic policy of the Virginia planter class for itself.


The analysis of the dialectic of racial categories has served as the point of departure of this study of the origin of racism in the United States. From that analysis, it was concluded that racial categories, e.g., black or negro, and white, were not natural categories, but rather social categories which harbor intrinsically the racist logic of “pure” vs. “contaminated” or “pedigree” vs. “mongrel.” Hence, the advent of such racial categories was regarded as a sure sign that the ideas of white superiority and black inferiority had attained deadly social validity and powerful ideological force. On the basis of this reasoning, the historical cause, or historical origin, of racism in the U.S. was subsequently identified to be the social practice that produced these racial categories.

The focus of my subsequent research, then, was upon the racial formation within the socioeconomic formation. The development of the mode of production, i.e., the plantation system led by the planter class, has been considered the factor which determined the form of labor, slavery, and the ideological production of racial categories. The key event in this process was Bacon’s Rebellion in which the planter class became the subject of the political economy of Virginia, and the one‑crop economy found a permanent niche in the global division of labor of English mercantilism. The most important problem facing this new ruling class was the flourishing of a mode of production demanding wage‑labor in a territory where proletarians were few. This problem was solved by the creation of racial slavery, which guaranteed that slavery would henceforth be the general condition of negroes. Racial formation, then, was the excrescence of a new mode of production based on the agricultural commodity production of plantations and the class formation consonant with it, adapted to the concrete conditions of Virginia.

But the ideal production of racial categories had implications far beyond being a formula to accomplish general negro slavery. The inherently racist logic of racial categories has a universal character which encompasses all blacks, whether slave or not. (Witness the degradation of the free blacks.) Indeed, racial categories acquired such irresistible ideological momentum that they far outdistanced the abolition of slavery and, in fact, did not attain their most vicious zenith until the late nineteenth century (Social Darwinism). In other words, racial categories were not merely a convenient justification or rationalization of negro slavery, but also a powerful weapon in the hands of the ruling class in its effort to transform nature and society according to its own class will. Indeed, once these categories gathered such social efficacy, it is not surprising that they were reproduced so long as the prevailing socioeconomic structure generated a place to which a pariah group could be relegated. The origin and persistence of racism in the U.S. is damning testimony that capitalism is quite capable of “accommodation” so far as providing this “place” is concerned. The logic of race relations, for its part, has also proven itself to be perfectly consonant with the movement of capitalist production.62 In fact, the development and reproduction of racism in U.S. history was not an “unfortunate” incident grafted upon an otherwise “democratic” society. Rather, racism has always been a socioeconomic policy of the highest moment for the socio‑economic and political formation of the United States.

Similarly, racial thought is quite accordant with commodity fetishism, the prevailing mode of thought in the bourgeois epoch. Commodity fetishism is characterized by the attribution of the social setting of things, i.e., social characteristics, to the innate qualities of things, i.e., natural characteristics.63 Likewise, the social setting that produced and reproduced racial categories (which have earlier been exposed as social categories) to accomplish certain socioeconomic exigencies, is fantastically perceived as a fate doled out as a consequence of natural physiognomic features. The social relation of race is thus obfuscated as an immutable fact of skin‑color. Such is the dire consequence of the failure to analyze the dialectic of racial categories in the U.S.


*                                              *                                              *


Hear ye, hear ye! All them that sing before the Lord and forget not the Vision of the Eldest and Strongest of the Races of Men whose faces be Black. Hear ye, hear ye! And remember forever and one day the Star of Ethiopia, All‑Mother of Men, who gave the world the Iron Gift and Gift of Faith, the Pain of Humility and Sorrow Song of Pain, and Freedom, Eternal Freedom, underneath the Star. Arise and go, Children of Philadelphia ‑‑ the Play is done ‑‑ the Play is done.

(W.E.B. DuBois)



Part I.

1          See, for example, Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black (Baltimore, 1969); George Frederickson, The Black Image in the White Mind (New York, 1972), Thomas F. Gossett, Race: The History of an Idea in America (New York, 1965).

2          Oliver C. Cox, Caste, Class, and Race. (New York, 1970), pp.321‑52, contains a criticism of such views.

3          See, for example, Winthrop Jordan’s concluding statement in White over Black:      “Conceivably there was and is a way out from the vicious cycle of degradation…. Common charity and his [the white man’s] special faith demanded that he make the attempt. But there was little in his historical experience to indicate that he would succeed.” p.582.

4          Racism Research Project, “Critique of the Black Nation Thesis,” (Berkeley, 1975), p.23.

5          This method is modeled after Karl Marx’s Capital, 3 Vols. (New York, 1967). One of the remarkable things about Capital is that more than half of its pages are devoted entirely to a dialectical analysis of the bourgeois economic categories of value, money, capital, profit, rent, etc. This analysis was neither a set of definitional clarifications, nor an exercise in sterile semantics. Rather, through this analysis, Marx exposed with incredible acumen the real relations which were reflected in “full maturity and classical form” by the categories.

6          See Donald L. Horowitz, “Color Differentiation in American Slavery,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 3 (Winter 1973): 509‑41.

7          Sidney Mintz, “Toward An Afro‑American History,” Journal of World History 13 (1971): 313; W.E.B. DuBois, Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward An Autobiography of a Race Concept (New York, 1969), pp.152‑53. DuBois realized the pervasive genetic inter‑mixture of blacks and whites in the U.S. but rejected the idea that race therefore had no social validity. Instead, he defined a Negro as “a person who must ride ‘Jim Crow’ in Georgia.”

8          Robert Stuckert, Ohio Journal of Science (no article name or page number given) cited in Lerone Bennett, Jr., Before the Mayflower A History of the Negro in America, 1619‑1964 (Baltimore, 1970), pp. 272‑73.

9          Part of the inhumanity and consequent tragedy of racism in the U.S. is illustrated by the slaveholder who sells his mulatto offspring as slaves, and by the black militant who feels compelled to denounce the European side of his ancestry in order to fight the prevailing racist oppression of the African side of his ancestry. Racism, the most anti‑human of human productions, does not even spare the family from its inexorable logic.

10        The development of slave law in Maryland paralleled that of Virginia. See Jonathan L. Alpert, “The Origins of Slavery in the U.S.: the Maryland Precedent,” American Journal of Legal History 14 (July 1970): 139‑221.

11        White Over Black, p.72.

12        I will not capitalize “negro” or “Christian” throughout the text as a reminder not to burden these words with twentieth century meaning.

13        Friedrich Engels’ article in Das Volk, #16, August 20, 1859, reprinted in Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (New York, 1970), Maurice Dobb, ed., p.225, 227.

14        White Over Black, p.95. However, our introduction has clarified my differences with Jordan over the significance of these changing, categories.

15        See the Act of 1705, Virginia General Assembly, The Statutes At Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature in the Year 1619, Vol. 3‑ prepared for the state by William Waller Hening, (Richmond, 1819‑1823), pp.447‑63. (Hereafter cited as Hening.)

16        Oscar and Mary F. Handlin, “Origins of the Southern Labor System,” in Colonial America: Essays in Politics and Social Development (Boston, 1971), Stanley N. Katz, ed., p.343. (Hereafter cited as Handlins.)

17        Lewis Cecil Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860 (Gloucester, 1958), p.343; White Over Black, p.51.

18        Peter Heylyn, MIKPO.K@‑0y, p.175, cited in White Over Black, p.53.

19        Handlins, p.347.

20        William Bullock, Virginia Impartially Examined, pp.13‑14.

21        Oxford English Dictionary; Henri Pirenne, Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe (New York, 1937), p.17.

22        White Over Black, p.55: “More than any other single quality, captivity differentiated slavery from servitude.” Helen T. Catterall, ed., Judicial Cases Concerning American Slavery and the Negro, Vol.1, (Washington, 1926), p.53: “The term servant’ was used to designate anyone who rendered service” including slaves. (Hereafter cited as Catterall).

23        White Over Black, p.55, 56.

24        Handlins, pp.346‑47.

25 Hening, II, p.26; R.R. McIlwaine, ed., “Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia, 1622‑1632, 1670‑1676, with notes and excerpts from original council and general court records, into 1683, now lost (Richmond, 1924), p.466. (Hereafter cited as Minutes.) See also, for example, Hening, II, p.117. The term “slave” must also have been absent from inventories of estates and wills, since historians have been forced to determine the status of “negroes” by their relatively higher value vis-à-vis English Christian servants. See Carl N. Degler, “Slavery and the Genesis of American Race Prejudice,” Studies in Comparative Society and History 2 (1959‑60): 59; Winthrop D. Jordan, “Modern Tensions and the Origins of American Slavery,” Journal of Southern History 28 (February 1962): 25‑26; John H. Russell, The Free Negro in Virginia, 1619‑1865 (Baltimore), Handlins, pp.346‑47. Hening, II, p.26; R.R. McIlwaine, ed., Minutes of the Council and General Court, (1913), p. 35, 36.

26 Catterall, I, pp.62‑63.

27        Archives of Maryland, Vol.49 (Baltimore, lq3.L), p.489.

28        Documentation below, p.li4‑’Ll.

29        Of course, the negro slave was not a “thing” and law was forced to recognize this to a limited extent. Nonetheless, the generalization that the slave was handled as a thing still holds true.

Part II

1          Catterall, I, pp.53‑54. Here the expression “white” should not be taken in the categorical sense analyzed in the introduction, as this category only came into being after 1680. Prior to this, the terms “christian servant” or “English servant” were the socially valid ones.

2 For an account of Virginia in the Company period, see Sigmund Diamond, “From Organization to Society: Virginia in the Seventeenth Century,” in Colonial America, Katz, ed., pp.4‑31.

3 Bernard Bailyn, “Politics and Social Structure in Virginia,” in Seventeenth‑Century America (New York, 1972), pp.91‑93; Edmund S. Morgan, “Slavery and Freedom: the American Paradox,” Journal of American History 59 (June 1972): 18.

4          Catterall, I, p.55. 1619 as the year of the first importation of negroes has been challenged by Alden T. Vaughan, “Blacks in Virginia: A Note on the First Decade,” William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 29 (July 1972): 469‑478. This article, which attempts to support the Degler thesis, was drawn to my attention too late for full consideration in this essay.

5 “The Randolph Manuscript,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (later cited as VMHB) 15 (1907‑08): 405.

6 Catterall, I, p.55.

7 Minutes, p.33.

8 Catterall, I, p.55.

9 Russell, Free Negro, p.23.

10 Minutes, pp.72‑73.

11        For convenience (and since I am not trying to pin an absolutely precise date on the origin of racism, but rather wish to unravel its socioeconomic essence), I will deal with the 1639 law in the 1640‑1660 section. For laws where negroes were not distinguished from other servants, see, for example, Hening, I, 174 (1631), 193 (1632), 200 (1632).

12 Hening, I, p.540; Free Negro, p.24; Handlins, p.353; Degler, p.60. However, a “mulatto” was “held to be a slave” in 1655/56. See Minutes, p.504.

13        See also Warren M. Billings, “The Cases of Fernando and Elizabeth Key:   A Note on the Status of Blacks in Seventeenth‑Century Virginia,” WMQ, Third Series, 30 (July 1973):466‑74. Billings’s research corroborates my general ideas, but I became aware of this article too late for assimilation into this paper.

14 supra, p.8.

15        Minutes, p.196.

16 Bailyn, “Politics and Social Structure,” p.93.

17        Ibid., pp.94‑95.

18        Wilcomb E. Washburn, The Governor and the Rebel: A History of Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia (New York, 1972), p.19.

19 Warren Billings, “The Causes of Bacon’s Rebellion: Some Suggestions,” VMHB 77 (1970): 411; William H. Seiler, “The Anglican Parish in Virginia,” in Seventeenth‑Century America, Smith, ed., p.128.

20 Morgan, “American Paradox,” p.19.

21 The actual numbers were from 150 to 2000. See Seiler, “Parish,” p.128.

22 Hening, I, p.226. This law replaced previous ones which made no such discrimination against negroes. See Hening, I, 174 (1631/32), 193 (1632).

23        Minutes, p.466 (January 9, 1640).

24        Minutes, p.467; Free Negro, p.35, 36; “Modern Tensions,” p.25; Degler, p.59; “Northampton County records (continued),” VMHB 5 (1397‑98): 40. These inventories gave inordinately high values to negroes as compared to English Christian servants and, also, unlike the listing of the Christian servants, did not indicate the number of years remaining for the negroes to serve.

25 “Modern Tensions,” p.24. See also, Free Negro, pp.34‑35 and Degler, p.60.

26 Free Negro, pp.32‑33.

27        See also Catterall, I, p.55; Minutes, p.33; H.R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses, II (Richmond, 1914), p.34; “The Randolph Manuscripts (continued),” VMHB 17 (1909): 232; Hening, II, 155.

28 Minutes, p.477.

29 American Paradox,” p.17; Handlins, p.351.

30 Hening, I, 226 (1639/40), 242 (1642/43), 292 (1644/45), 454 (1657/58).

31        Ibid., II, 170.

32        Ibid., I, 146, 552, II, 114, 170; McIlvaine, Journals of the House, I, 262.

33        See, for example, Hening, III, 86‑87, 453.


Part III.

1 Bailyn, p.98.

2 We are unsure whether this was an Indian‑English or African‑English mulatto, or exactly what the meaning of “slave” was. See Minutes, 504.

3 Hening, I, 540. Again it is unclear whether “slave” had a social status signification.

4 Hening, II, 26.

5 Ibid., II, 117.

6 Abbot E. Smith, Colonists in Bondage: White Servitude and Convict Labor in America, 1607‑1776 (New York, 1971), p.171 and Jordan, “Modern Tensions,” p.24, claim that there were never any white lifetime servants in the colonies. However, Hening, II, 284 (1670) seems to offer testimony to the contrary. This law was surely referring to English servants “such as runaway more then [sic) once are desperate and incorrigible, and soe not careing how farre the country is charged themselves, being run beyond a possibility of reimbursing.”

7 Hening, I, 539.

8 Ibid., II, 155.

9 Ibid., II, 170.

10 Degler, p.61.

11 Professor James Kettner has further informed me that in contemporary England, the common law (“child follows father”) held for persons, while the rule “offspring follows mother” held for chattel. Thus, he says, this Virginia law seems to be a shift toward chattel slavery, not an “unexplained departure” from English common law.

12 See, for example, “The Randolph Manuscript,” VMHB 17: 232. Also found in Journals of the House, II, 34, and Catterall, 1, 58.

13        Hening, II, 260.

14        Ibid., II, 267.

15        Ibid., II, 270.

16        Ibid., II, 280‑81.

17        Ibid., II, 283.

18        The enslavement of whites would have met strong opposition in Europe(witness the loud complaints of “slavery” concerning indentured servitude), perhaps resulting in the cessation of immigration. As for the Indians, they were neither sufficiently numerous (having been severely hit by European diseases), sufficiently willing (in the cultural sense), nor enslavable enough in their familiar native land to be the basis of a slave labor system.

19 By social revolution, I refer to the overthrow and replacement of a ruling class by a new class. The two classes involved in Rebellion will be shown to have been the Crown‑created Green Spring clique and the indigenous planter class. The existence of two opposing classes within the general occupational rubric of “planters” is not unusual. Analogous class divisions split the contemporary English merchants, and today the bourgeoisie in underdeveloped countries is often divided into an imperialism‑created comprador bourgeoisie and a national bourgeoisie (e.g, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Egypt, India).

20 Bailyn, pp.98‑99.

2I.  Bailyn pp. 742‑44.

22 Bailyn, p.104.

23, American Paradox,” p.20: “…one development was crucial, and that was the appearance in Virginia of a growing number of freemen who had served their terms but who were now unable to afford land of their own except on the frontiers or in the interior…. By 1676 it was estimated that one fourth of Virginia’s freemen were without land of their own.”

24        John C. Rainbolt, “The Alteration in the Relationship Between Leadership and Constituents in Virginia, 1660‑1720,” WMQ‑‑Third Series, 27 (1970 : 413.

25 Bacon to Berkeley, May 26, 1676, quoted in Mashburn, Governor and Rebel, p.46.

26 Rainbolt, “Alteration,” p.415.

27 T.M.[Thomas Mathews], “The Beginning, Progress and Conclusion of Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia, in the years 1675 and 1676,” in Tracts and Other Papers…, Peter Force, ed., (New York, 1947), p.27.

28 See, for example, the grievances of Sitterborne Parish in Robert Middlekauff, ed., Bacon’s Rebellion (Rand McNally and Co., 1964), P.17.

29        Rainbolt, “Alteration,” p.228,235, 234.

30        John C. Rainbolt, “A New Look at Stuart Tyranny: The Crown’s Attack on the Virginia Assembly, 1676‑1689,” VMHB 75‑‑(October 1967): 387. 54

Part III, continued.

31        T.H. Breen, “A Changing Labor Force and Race Relations in Virginia, 1660‑1710,” Journal of Social History 7 (Fall 1973): 9‑12, and “American Paradox,” pp.20‑22, assign the leading role in the Rebellion to the laboring masses.

32 Sir John Berry and Francis Moryson to Thomas Watkins, February 10, 1677, quoted in Mashburn, p.109.

1          33 See, for example, the grievances of Surry County in Middlekauff, ed., Bacon’s Rebellion, pp.12‑13.

34. American Paradox,” p.22.

35 . Since our interest is not in Bacon’s Rebellion per se, but rather in the emergence of the planter class to the position of ruling class, the role of economic depression in the Rebellion will not be discussed. @ly considered oninior‑, hoxiever, is that the economic difficulties were onlv a secondary I factor. See Herbert Aptheker, Colonial Era (New York, 1970@, pp.6268, and Thomas J. Tiertenbaker, Torchbearer of the Revolution: The Story of Bacon’s Rebellion and Its Leader (Gloucester, 10@65), pp.20ff.

36 Bailyn, pp.111‑12.

37,       Alteration,”, p.412.

38 Catterall, I, 60.

39        See, for example, inanutes, 316 (1672), 354 (1673).

40      Paul C. Palmer, “Servant Into Slave: The Evolution of the Legal Status of the Negro Laborer in Colonial Virginia,” South Atlantic Quarterly

65 (Summer 1966): 362‑63.

41 Henin‑, II, 299.

42 Ibid., II, 491.

43        Ibid., II, 481‑82. In this “An act for preventing Negroes Insurrections ” the nearo was disallowed t‑7eapons, forced to have a pass to leave the aorounds, ‘ and prohibited to “presume to lift up his hand in opposition to any Christian.”

44 White Over Black, p.82.

45        Hening, III, 86‑88.

46       This may well have been necessary. See,‑for example, H.R. @IcIlwaine,

55 Part III, continued. Legislative Journals of the Coi‑incil of Colonial Virginia, I (Richmond,1918), p.262, where a petition was presented opposing the “anti‑miscegenation” laws.

47 Hening, III, 229‑481, especially 447‑463.

48 Capital, I, n.751. See also, @@ric ‘‑,’ill4‑ams, Cap’italism aii .4 Slaver7 (@@Tiew York, 1966).

49        Hening, II,266; 113‑14, 40; 116‑17, 273‑74, 277‑73.

50        I,@d., I, 459 (1657/58) prohibited “collonie servants”; I,257, 441‑1

42, II, 297, set time limits for servants contino, in without indentures to serve; I, 533‑39, 411, 471 and II,113‑14, protected non‑English servants, especially the Irish; II, 117‑18, legislated against cruelty to servants; II, 164, clarified their right to own goods; II, 338, protected servants from beinc, forced to serve additional terms: 447‑62, set limits on servant punishment.

51TIhite Over 31acl‑, pp.30‑31.

52        Hening, II, 26, 117, 277, 299‑300, 4Cl, 492; Minutes, 382, 466, 467; @qhi‑te Over Black, p.75; Breen, “Race Relations,” pp.7‑8; George Frederickson, Toward a Social Interpretation of the Development of American Racism,” inKey Issues in the Afro American Experience, I, Nathan Muggins et.al., ed., p.247.

53        Thomas Grantham, “The History of Bacon’s and Ingram’s Rebellion.” [1676] in Charles M. Andrews, @Tarratives of Insurrections, 1675‑1690 (1,Tew York, 1915), p.94.

54        Breen, “Race Relations,” p.22.

55        George Chalmers letter of September 19, 1676, in TTashburn, p.209.

56 Breen, p.11.

57 Breen, pp.12‑13; see also, Morgan, “American Paradox,” p.25, and Frederickson, “Social Interpretation,” pp.247‑49.

58        Hening, II, 299 (1672) 481 (1680), 492,(1632); III, 86‑87 (1691).

59        Hening, III, 252. I have not dealt with the Indians in this paper because I believe the Eno‑lish‑Indian relation to have been fundamentally a national relation, not a racial one’. The Indians were not a corporate unity, nor were they dealt with as such by the English, but rather they constituted distinct tribes. Furthermore, the differing dynatiics of race relations and

56Part III, continued.

national relations is also shown by the fact that the Indians were basically a social entity external to the socioeconomic formation of the colonies, an external obstacle to conquering the territory upon @@ch to erect a mode of production. The race relation, on the other hand, was a vital internal elet@cnt of the social formation.

60 White Over Black, p‑95‑96.

61 Here I refer to national formation, not the formation of nation‑states,

which are sometimes multinational.

62        The Racism Research Project, in an unpublished manuscript, have described the relation of racism and capitalism thusly: “Racism is a flower 1‑Tith a capitalist root ‑‑ this seems to be a fair assessment if we keep in mind that flowerless roots are capable of sustained life, but rootless flowers wilt in a natter of days.”

63 Capital, I, pp.71‑83.


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