Locke, Alain LeRoy

Locke, Alain LeRoy, 1885–1954, American writer, educator, philosopher, and cultural critic, b. Philadelphia, grad. Harvard (A.B., 1907; Ph.D., 1918), first African-American Rhodes Scholar at Oxford (1907–10), One of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, he was a professor of philosophy at Howard Univ. (1912–53), specializing in value theory. His most influential book is The New Negro (1925, repr. 2015), a collection of modernist essays, fiction, drama, and poetry he edited and to which he contributed. In it and elsewhere, Locke rejected common African-American political techniques and self-consciously political art, and argued that a unique modernist art and the physical mobility of blacks (as in the Great Migration) were the touchstones of a new freedom of expression beyond politics for black Americans. A gay man, Locke mingled art and sexuality in his work. He urged black artists to explore African history, music, art, and artistic techniques as well as to find subjects in contemporary African-American life in the search for a singular form of black art. Locke reviewed and popularized the work of such black artists as the writers Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen and the painter Jacob Lawrence, and he edited the Bronze Booklet, which studied black cultural accomplishments. Among his many books are Four Negro Poets (1927), a biography of Frederick Douglass (1935), The Negro and His Music (1936, repr. 1968), and The Negro in Art (1940, repr. 1971).

See his works ed. by C. Molesworth (2012); biographies by L. Harris and C. Molesworth (2008) and J. C. Stewart (2018); studies by J. Washington (1994), L. Harris, ed. (1991), and L. Harris and N. Fraser, ed. (1999).

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