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 RenaissanceHarlem Renaissance,
term used to describe a flowering of African-American literature and art in the 1920s, mainly in the Harlem district of New York City. During the mass migration of African Americans from the rural agricultural South to the urban industrial North
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, 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 MigrationGreat Migration,
in U.S. history. 1 The migration of Puritans to New England from England, 1620–40, prior to the English civil war. As a result of the increasingly tyrannical rule of King Charles I and the oppression of Puritanism under Archbishop William Laud and
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) 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 HughesHughes, Langston
(James Langston Hughes), 1902–67, American poet and central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, b. Joplin, Mo., grad. Lincoln Univ., 1929. He worked at a variety of jobs and lived in several countries, including Mexico and France, before Vachel Lindsay
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 and Countee CullenCullen, Countee
, 1903–46, American poet, b. New York City, grad. New York Univ. 1925, M.A. Harvard, 1926. A major writer of the Harlem Renaissance—a flowering of black artistic and literary talent in the 1920s—Cullen wrote poetry inspired by American black
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 and the painter Jacob LawrenceLawrence, Jacob,
1917–2000, American painter, b. Atlantic City, N.J. In Lawrence's work social themes, often detailing the African-American experience, are expressed in colorfully angular, simplified, expressive, and richly decorative figurative effects.
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, and he edited the Bronze Booklet, which studied black cultural accomplishments. Among his many books are Four Negro Poets (1927), a biography of Frederick DouglassDouglass, Frederick
, c.1818–1895, American abolitionist, b. near Easton, Md. as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. The son of a black slave, Harriet Bailey, and a white father, most likely his mother's owner, he reinvented himself by taking the name of Douglass (from
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 (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).