Allen, Robert L(ee) 1942-

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ALLEN, Robert L(ee) 1942-

(Benjamin Peterson)

PERSONAL: Born May 29, 1942, in Atlanta, GA; son of Robert Lee and Sadie (Sims) Allen; married Pamela Parker, August 28, 1965 (divorced); married Janet Carter, 1995; children: (first marriage) Casey Douglass. Ethnicity: African-American. Education: Attended University of Vienna, 1961-62; Morehouse College, B.S., 1963; graduate study at Columbia University, 1963-64; New School for Social Research, M.A., 1967; University of CaliforniaSan Francisco, Ph.D., 1983.

ADDRESSES: Home—1034 Vallejo St., San Francisco, CA 94133. Office—Black Scholar, P.O. Box 2869, Oakland, CA 94618. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Department of Welfare, New York, NY, caseworker, 1964-65; reporter for National Guardian, 1967-69; San Jose State College (now University), San Jose, CA, began as instructor, became assistant professor of black studies, 1969-72; Mills College, Oakland, CA, began as lecturer, became assistant professor of ethnic studies, 1973-84, head of ethnic studies department, 1981-84; Black Scholar, Oakland, CA, associate editor, 1972-74, managing editor, 1974-75, editor, 1975-90, senior editor, 1990—. University of California, Berkeley, CA, visiting professor in African American & ethnic studies department, 1994-2003. Adjunct professor, 2003—. Also general editor of Wild Trees Press, 1984-90. Member of the board of directors of Bay Area Black Journalists, Oakland Men's Project, and San Francisco Book Council.

MEMBER: American Sociological Association, American Historical and Cultural Society, Black World Foundation, Pacific Sociological Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Merrill grant for Austria, 1961-62; Woodrow Wilson fellowship, 1963-64; Dorothy Gelgor Prize in New School Social Research, 1967; Guggenheim fellowship, 1977; American Book Award, 1995, for Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America.


Black Awakening in Capitalist America, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1969, published as A Guide to Black Power in America: An Historical Analysis, Gollanz (London, England), 1970.

Reluctant Reformers: The Impact of Racism onAmerican Social Reform Movements, Howard University Press (Washington, DC), 1974.

The Port Chicago Disaster and Its Aftermath, University of California (San Francisco, CA), 1983, published as The Port Chicago Mutiny, Warner (New York, NY), 1989.

(Editor, with Robert Chrisman) Court of Appeal: TheBlack Community Speaks Out on the Racial and Sexual Politics of Thomas vs. Hill, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1992.

(Editor, with Herb Boyd) Brotherman: The Odyssey ofBlack Men in America, illustrated by Tom Feelings, One World (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Lee Brown) Strong in the Struggle: My Life as a Black Labor Activist (biography of Lee Brown), Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2001.

(With Allene G. Carter) Honoring Sergeant Carter: Redeeming a Black World War II Hero's Legacy, Amistad (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to Race, Gender, and Power in America, edited by Anita Faye Hill and Emma Coleman Jordan, Oxford, 1995; Readings in Black Political Economy, edited by John Whitehead and Cobi Kawasi Harris, Kendall/Hunt, 1999; and The African American Studies Reader, edited by Nathaniel Norment, Jr., Carolina Academic Press, 2001. Contributor to magazines, sometimes under the pseudonym Benjamin Peterson.

ADAPTATIONS: Port Chicago was adapted as a documentary, television movie, and jazz suite.

SIDELIGHTS: Robert L. Allen once commented, "A recurrent theme in my work is a concern with the role of beliefs and ideologies in the process of social change. I consider myself a materialist sociologist, but I also think that human action is shaped by the subjective understandings that people have of their situations; hence, getting inside the heads of actors, understanding their consciousness, is as important as measuring the social forces that impinge upon them."

For his book The Port Chicago Disaster and Its Aftermath, Allen drew upon documents and oral histories he had collected from survivors to describe the events that, according to Allen, "followed the disastrous explosion, at the Port Chicago (California) Naval Ammunition Magazine in July, 1944. After the explosion, fifty black sailors were accused of mutiny when, as part of a larger group, they refused to return to work loading ammunition on ships. (More than three hundred men had been killed in the blast.) The fifty men were court-martialed amid great publicity, convicted, and jailed. A national campaign was organized by the Legal Defense Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, to free the men. Eventually, the sentences were set aside and the men were released. The Port Chicago explosion was the worst home-front disaster of World War II, and the trial of the fifty men was the largest mass mutiny trial in U.S. Navy history."

Allen coedited Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America, with Herb Boyd. Containing over one hundred entries, the book is the first anthology devoted exclusively to male African-American writings. Writing in American Visions, T. Andreas Spelman considered Brotherman, "one of the most comprehensive collections of African American men's writing." While the anthology includes contributions from the famous, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Essex Hemphill, Booklist's Greg Burkman observed, "famous individuals don't overshadow those who are less so" in this "forceful anthology," while a Publishers Weekly critic called Brotherman "a distinguished addition to black studies."

Honoring Sergeant Carter: Redeeming a Black World War II Hero's Legacy, which Allen coauthored with Carter's daughter-in-law, Allene G. Carter, is "packed with jewels of America's diverse racial and cultural history too often hidden from view," wrote Vernon Ford in a Booklist review. With only a few exceptions, African-American soldiers served in segregated units until the latter part of World War II. When, after the Battle of the Bulge, the army allowed the soldiers to volunteer for front-line duty, Eddie Carter was transferred into George Patton's command and fought in one of the first battles to take place on German soil. Single-handedly overtaking enemy machine gun and mortar positions, Carter was said to have fought bravely. He heroically saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers while suffering great injury himself. He received a Distinguished Service Medal, but did not receive a Medal of Honor, which many felt he justly deserved. In fact, none of the 294 such medals were awarded to any of the 1.2 million African-American soldiers serving in World War II. In response to pressure from veteran's groups, the Army investigated Carter's case in 1992.

In the book, the authors suggest that Carter's initial failure to receive a medal was due to the overt racism of some Army officers, Carter's political sympathies, and his vocal objections to the treatment of black soldiers. In 1997, however, President Bill Clinton awarded Carter a posthumous Medal of Honor. Carton's son, Edward III, accepted the medal of behalf of his father, who died in 1963. A Kirkus Reviews contributor felt that the authors did "a commendable job of showing just how righteous Carter's cause was, bringing deserved honor to their subject."



Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 38, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.


American Vision, April-May, 1995, T. Andreas Spelman, review of Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America, p. 34.

Black Issues in Higher Education, June 1, 1995, D. Kamili Anderson, review of Brotherman, pp. 74-76.

Black Scholar, March-April, 1989, Evelyn C. White, review of The Port Chicago Mutiny, pp. 33-35; summer, 1990, "Port Chicago Case Comes before U.S. Congress," pp. 38-40; spring, 1993, review of The Port Chicago Mutiny, p. 57; winter, 1995, John Woodford, review of Brotherman, pp. 56-58.

Booklist, March 15, 1989, review of The Port ChicagoMutiny, p. 93; February 15, 1995, Greg Burkman, review of Brotherman, p. 1053; January 1, 2003, Vernon Ford, review of Honoring Sergeant Carter: Redeeming a Black World War II Hero's Legacy, p. 838.

Crisis, October, 1995, Malik M. Chaka, review of Brotherman, p. 8.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1989, review of The PortChicago Mutiny, p. 93; November 15, 2002, review of Honoring Sergeant Carter, p. 1668.

Library Journal, March 1, 1989, Thomas J. Davis, review of The Port Chicago Mutiny, p. 78; March 15, 1995, Anita L. Cole, review of Brotherman, p. 90.

Michigan Law Review, May, 1990, Derrick A. Bell, review of The Port Chicago Mutiny, pp. 1689-1697.

Publishers Weekly, January 13, 1989, review of ThePort Chicago Mutiny, p. 81; January 23, 1995, review of Brotherman, p. 51; December 9, 2002, review of Honoring Sergeant Carter, p. 73.

San Francisco Review of Books, 1989, review of PortChicago Mutiny, p. 23.

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Allen, Robert L(ee) 1942-

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