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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/Summer 2022: The Black Question and the Left

Summer 2022: The Black Question and the Left

The Black Question: From 1776 to #BLM

PAS Summer 2022 Reading Group

Dates: Thursdays, June 9 – July 28, 2021

Time: 2pm EST

Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 922 9482 0600

Week 1: From the Colonial Era to the Revolution

June 9

+Thomas Jefferson to John Lynch, January 21, 1811, Founders Online, National Archives, [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, vol. 3, 12 August 1810 to 17 June 1811, ed. J. Jefferson Looney. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006, pp. 318–320.]

+ Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes 4/22/1820, in The American Debate over Slavery, 1760–1865: An Anthology of Sources, ed. Scott J. Hammond, Kevin R. Hardwick, and Howard Lubert (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2016), 101–102.

+ Thomas Jefferson to Frances Wright, August 7, 1825, The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress, Series 1: General Correspondence. 1651-1827.

+ Thomas Jefferson to Henri Gregoire, February 25, 1809, from The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester.

+ James Vaughn, “The Legacy of the American Revolution 1: (English) Colonial America” (06/12/20) in PlatypusLegacy of the American Revolution lecture series.

+ James Vaughn, “The Legacy of the American Revolution 2: The American Revolution” (06/19/20) in the PlatypusLegacy of the American Revolution lecture series.

+ James Vaughn, “1776 in world history: The American Revolution as bourgeois revolution” in The Platypus Review 62, December 2013–January 2014

+ Chris Cutrone, “The Jeffersonian Revolution” (06/26/2020) for the PlatypusLegacy of the American Revolution lecture series.

+ D.L. Jacobs and Luc Bronder-Giroux, “An interview with Gerald Horne” in The Platypus Review 129, September 2020

+ Keith Brooks, ”Would slavery have ended sooner if the British had defeated the Colonists’ bid for independence?” The Platypus Review 109, September 2018.

+ Wood, Revolutionary Characters Ch. 3 “The trials and tribulations of Thomas Jefferson” (2006), pp. 91–118.

+ Peter S. Onuf, “‘To Declare Them a Free and Independant People’: Race, Slavery, and National Identity in Jefferson's Thought” in Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Spring, 1998), pp. 1-46.

+ Peter Onuf, The Mind of Thomas Jefferson, esp. pp. 213–270.

+ Richard Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics & Locke’s Two Treatises of Government

+ Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (1944)


Week 2: The Slaveholders’ Rebellion: The American Civil War

June 16


  • Glory (1989)
  • Lincoln (2012)

Week 3: Early Twentieth Century Debates: Separatists, Communists, and Socialists

June 23

  • W.E.B. Dubois, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others,” in The Soul of Black Folk (pp. 33–44)
  • Eugene V. Debs, The Negro in the Class Struggle (1903), Originally published in the International Socialist Review 4, no. 5 (November 1903): 257–60.
    Eugene V. Debs, The Negro and His Nemesis (1904), Originally published in the International Socialist Review 4, no. 7 (January 1904): 391–97.
  • Hubert Harrison, “Socialism and the Negro” (1912) (5pp. pdf)
  • Claude McKay, “Socialism and the Negro” in P. Heideman, Class Struggle and the Color Line: American Socialism and the Race Question 1900–1930 (Chicago: Haymarket, 2018). Originally published in Workers’ Dreadnought, January 31, 1920, 1–2.
  • John Reed, “The Negro Question in America” Speech at the 2nd World Congress of the Communist International, Moscow, July 26, 1920 in Second Congress of the Communist International: Minutes of the Proceedings (London: New Park Publications, 1977)
    Note: Please read the PDF version included in the Black-Question-texts folder. The version available at is incomplete.
  • Cyril Briggs, “The African Blood Brotherhood” Unsigned article published in The Crusader, vol. 2, no. 10 (June 1920), pp, 7, 22. Attributed to magazine editor and ABB founder Cyril V. Briggs.
  • Cyril Briggs, “The Negro Convention” published in The Toiler [New York], v. 4, whole no. 190 (Oct. 1, 1921), pp. 13-14.

+ Tim Barker, “Book Review: Jeffrey B. Perry, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1882–1918 (2008)” in The Platypus Review 19 January 2010

+ “Report on the Black Question” Session 22 – 25 November 1922 in John Riddell (ed.), Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922“ (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2012), pp. 800-811.

Note: Includes speeches by Otto Huiswoud (“Billings”), pp. 800–805 and Claude McKay, pp. 807–811, and Draft of the Theses on the Black Question, pp. 805–807.
+ “Theses on the Black Question” (1922) [Final Text] in John Riddell (ed.), Toward the United Front (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2012), pp. 947–951.
+ Trotsky, “A Letter to Comrade McKay,” (13 March 1923) in Trotsky, First Five Years of the Communist International, (Pathfinder Press, 1977) Vol. 2, pp. 476-479.

+ Sunit Singh, "Imperialism and the Left" in Platypus Review 128 (July 2020)
+ Letter to Theodore Draper in New York from Cyril Briggs in Los Angeles, March 17, 1958 [Long extract], Document in the Theodore Draper Papers, Hoover Institution Archives, Box 31.

Note: First published in English March 13, 1923, International Press Correspondence, Vol. Ill, No. 25, p.197.


  • Rosewood (1997)
  • Reds

Week 4: The Old Left and the Black Question

June 30

  • Harry Haywood, “The Negro Problem and the Tasks of the Communist Party of the United States” (1928) in P. Foner and H. Shapiro, American Communism and Black Americans: A Documentary History, 1919-1929 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press 1991), pp. 172–178.
  • Max Shachtman, Communism and the Negro (Race and Revolution) (1933)

+ Benjamin Blumberg, “An Unmet Challenge: Race and the Left in America” in The Platypus Review 19, January 2010

+ J.P. Cannon, “The Coming of the American Revolution” (1946)

+”Theses on the American Revolution, Adopted by the Twelfth National Convention of the SWP”

(November 1946)

+ On the United Front by the Spartacists League

Week 5: Black Skin, White Masks: Frantz Fanon Before the New Left

July 7

Week 6: The New Left and the Black Question, pt. 1

July 14

+Martin Luther King, "The Other America" (1967) (Video)

+ Richard Fraser, “Two lectures on the black question in America and revolutionary integrationism” (1953)

+ Coleman Hughes and Jim Creegan, “Bayard Rustin: Black Liberation and Socialism” The Platypus Review 131, November 2020


  • Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (2003)
  • All the Way (2016)

Week 7: The New Left and the Black Question, pt. 2: The Black Power Turn

July 21

+ Malcolm X., “And I Don’t Mean Bananas” (1964) (16 pp.)

+ Black Panther Party, “Ten-Point Program” (1966)

+ Audrey Crescenti, “The Black Panther Party and community organizing: An interview with Bobby Seale” in The Platypus Review 113, February 2019

+ Sophia Freeman, “The Black Panther Party, Malcolm X, and the question of revolutionary politics today: An interview with Kathleen Cleaver” in The Platypus Review 113, February 2019


Week 8: Platypus Hosts the Conversation: From Obama to #BLM
July 28

+“Black Politics in the Age of Obama” (Chicago, 2013)
Panelists: Cedric Johnson, author of Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics (2007) and The Neoliberal Deluge (2011); and Mel Rothenberg, veteran of the Sojourner Truth Organization and coauthor of The Myth of Capitalism Reborn (1980).

+ “Black Politics and State Violence” (2015)

School of Visual Arts (03/11/15) [Audio]
Panelists: Ben Blumberg (Platypus), Dread Scott (Artist), Eljeer Hawkins (Socialist Alternative/CWI)

+ Platypus at Left Forum NYC 2010: The American Left and the "black question:" from politics to protest to the post-political (2010) [Audio]
Panelists: Tim Barker, Columbia U.; Benjamin Blumberg, Platypus; PamelaNogales, Platypus; Chris Cutrone, Platypus
+ Platypus Public Panel Series: “Black Politics and State Violence” (2015)
University of Chicago (03/20/15) [Audio]
Panelists: Michael Dawson and Mel Rothenberg
+ Platypus Public Panel: “The American left and the ‘Black Question’: From politics to protest to the post-political” (Chicago, 2015)
Panelists: Toby Chow, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) and The People’s Lobby; Brandon Johnson, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU); August Nimtz, author of Lenin's Electoral Strategy from 1907 to the October Revolution of 1917 (2014); and Adolph Reed, Jr., author of Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era (1999).