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As an author, editor, and patron, Locke rightly earned the appellation "Godfather of the Harlem Renaissance. Throughout his life he penned essays, on topics ranging from John Keats to Sigmund Freud, in addition to his trenchant social commentary on race and society. The Works of Alain Locke provides the largest collection available of his brilliant essays, gathered from a career that spanned forty years.
They cover an impressively broad field of subjects: philosophy, literature, the visual arts, music, the theory of value, race, politics, and multiculturalism. The foreword by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
More Fiction. Not unlike blackness itself. The term had surfaced in private debates with Horace Kallen, a Jewish student who overlapped with Locke at both Harvard and Oxford. Locke demurred. His own past had begun to break painfully away. Mary Locke died in , leaving Alain crushed and adrift. As he moved into modernism, he found that his life was freer and looser; his pomp flared into camp.
The anthology was meant to signal a gutting and remaking of the black collective spirit. The term has a crispness that the thing itself did not. It was a movement spiked with rivalries and political hostility—not least because it ran alongside the sociological dramas of Communism, Garveyism, mob violence, and a staggering revolution in the shape and texture of black American life, as millions fled the poverty and the lynchings of the Jim Crow South.
The cities of the North awaited them—as did higher wages and white police. Modernity had anointed a new hero, and invented, Locke thought, a New Negro. But he hoped that this new figure would stride beyond politics. Radicals irked him; he regarded them with a kind of princely ennui. In the title essay, Locke presented a race whose inner conversion had flown past the lumbering outside world. It is—or promises at least to be—a race capital. Black people had snapped their moorings to servitude and arrived at the advanced subjectivity lushly evinced by their art: their poems and paintings, their novels and spirituals.
Negroes were a distinct people, with distinct traditions and values held in common. The sentence shines with triumph; it warms and breaks the heart.
Art and Activism
The task that confronted any black modernist—after a bloody emancipation, a failed Reconstruction, and the carnage of the First World War—was to decide the place, within this blazing new power, of pain. Locke preached a kind of militant poise. His New Negro would face history without drowning in it; would grasp, but never cling to, the harrowing past.
But also lavish, stylish, jaunty, tart; bristling with whimsy and gleaming with sex. Locke relished every titillating contradiction but shrank, still, from political extremes.
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And such a blurred line. Franklin Frazier, a young social scientist. Locke yearned for something solid: a home for black art, somewhere to nourish, protect, refine, and control it. Although the project failed as did his plans for a Harlem Community Arts Center , Mason remained a meddling, confused presence in his life until her death, in During their association, he passed through a gantlet of prickling degradations.
But those funds were indispensable, finally, to the work of Hughes and, especially, Hurston. He welcomed the authority, swelling into a supercilious manager and, to Hughes, a bullying admirer who handed down edicts from Godmother while enforcing a few of his own. The thirties also brought revelations and violent political emergencies that plunged Locke into a rapprochement with the left.
Locke the glossy belletrist gave way to Locke the fellow-traveller, Locke the savvy champion of proletarian realism. There was a fitful attempt to write a biography of Frederick Douglass, and a dutiful visit to the Soviet Union.
“Not a Thing of the Past”, Zora Neale Hurston and the Living Legacy of Folklore
But he was never a proper Communist. Locke was middling as an ideologue, but remained a fiercely committed pragmatist.
- An Introduction to the Harlem Renaissance | Poetry Foundation.
- The Philadelphia Citizen.
- Alain Locke Collection of African Art — Dumbarton Oaks;
- UCSB Professor Wins Pulitzer Prize | The Daily Nexus;
- Alain LeRoy Locke: Black History Month All Star;
- The works of Alain Locke.
The rise of Fascism saw his philosophical work make crackling contact with politics. One of his most gratifying contributions was his advocacy of the painter Jacob Lawrence, and his sixty-panel tribute to the Great Migration. His life was still replete with younger men to whom he was an aide and a guide—but not a sexual equal. It has nothing to do with the differences in ages. But I do know, and this I have withheld until now, an intense feeling of nausea accompanied me after the initial affair, and I know it would be repeated each time, if such were to happen again.
This is touching—and strangely fitting. Love: the word is applied like glue, keeping this vast book in one preposterous piece.