“Race and Revolution” Series Introduction

“Race and Revolution” Series Introduction

“The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental. There were Jacobin workmen in Paris who would have fought for the blacks against Bonaparte’s troops.”[1]

– C.L.R. James

“The Statue of Liberty embodies both racial difference and an unparalleled representation of human liberation. It is thus the perfect symbol of white freedom.”[2]

– Tyler Stovall

C.L.R. James is best known as a theorist of the intersections between class and race. In his seminal work, The Black Jacobins, he argues that the black struggle for freedom was unique in Haiti, but class conflict, not race, was the primary engine of history. While many tend to downplay the monolithic class categories common to the Marxist historiography of the twentieth century, James nevertheless poses the question well: how has race informed and shaped the experience of revolution? Such a question hinges on one’s definition of revolution as well. Did race inform social revolution? Or were revolutions essentially political forces that witnessed the transformation of race? Questions like these have driven revolutionary studies over the last couple decades.

In the political realm, race and revolution have come to the fore in the last couple of years. Consider, for example, how monuments have become contested spaces wherein revisionist history meets the public sphere — where race and colonial legacies are contested. For more see Ananda Cohen-Aponte’s two-part post entitled “Genealogies of Revolutionary Iconoclasm”Tyler Stovall, president of the American Historical Association in 2017, also explored this issue in the latest issue of the American Historical Review, examining out how the Statue of Liberty – our very own Marianne – engenders a vision of liberty that is cast in race-based terms.

We at Age of Revolutions are thrilled to announce a new series we are calling “Race and Revolution.” Starting next week and over the coming months (see the schedule below), we will publish posts on the ways in which race has influenced revolutionary experience, built up and torn apart communities, propagated empire, promoted marginalization and slavery, and mobilized abolitionist sentiment. Enjoy!


March 5, 2018 (The Boston Massacre Anniversary & Crispus Attucks Day):

Mitch Kachun, “Crispus Attucks: American Revolutionary Hero?”

March 12, 2018:

Jason McGraw, “Race, or The Last Colonial Struggle in Latin America

March 19, 2018:

Bronwen Everill, “Demarginalizing West Africa in the Age of Revolutions

March 26, 2018:

Erica Johnson, “White Creole Identity on Trial: The Haitian Revolution and Refugees in Louisiana

April 2, 2018:

Charlton Yingling, “Lesec, from Brave Mulato into Blackness?: Defection to France and Spanish Racial Regression

April 9, 2018:

Nathan H. Dize, “Monumental Louverture: French/Haitian Statuary and the Commemoration of Abolition

April 16, 2018:

Chelsea Stieber, “Beyond Race: Civil War, Regionalism, and Ideology in Early Post-Independence Haiti

April 23, 2018:

Aurélia Aubert, “Challenging Lafayette’s Legacy: Race and Republicanism in France and the United States” 

April 30, 2018:

Jenna Nigro, “The Revolution of 1848 in Senegal: Emancipation and Representation

May 7, 2018:

Oleski Miranda Navarro, “The Periodical Patria and Racial Mobilization in the Last War for Cuban Independence

May 14, 2018:

Frédéric Spillemaeker, “A Hidden Caribbean Revolution? Race and Revolution in Venezuela, 1789-1817

May 21, 2018:

Silvia Escanilla Huerta, “Indigenous People and Peruvian Independence: A Polemical Historiography 

May 28, 2018:

Elena McGrath,”National Peasants: The Revolutionary Politics of Identity in MNR’s Bolivia



[1] C.L.R. James, Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (New York: Random House, 1963), 283.

[2] Tyler Stovall, “White Freedom and the Lady of Liberty,” American Historical Association 123, Issue 1 (February 2018), 3.

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