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Alain Leroy Locke

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Alain Leroy Locke

Alain Leroy Locke (1885 - 1954) was a scholar, author, and publisher. He dedicated his life to mentoring young African American poets, scholars, and artists. He was also a gay man living in the first half of the twentieth century. How could he become the "Father of the Harlem Renaissance"? What does that even mean? Let's take a deeper look into Alain Leroy Locke's biography, influence, and works!

Alain Leroy Locke: Biography & Works Alain Leroy Locke StudySmarter

Alain Leroy Locke. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Alain Leroy Locke: A Biography

A fundamental figure for American artists and writers in the 20th century, Alain Leroy Locke defied stereotypes and discriminatory practices, opening doors for many others that came after.

Childhood

Born to Pliny and Mary Locke in Philadelphia on a September day in 1885, his birth name was Arthur Leroy Locke. Mary was a school teacher, and Pliny was a mail clerk. Pliny earned a law degree from Howard University but could not keep a job in law because of his race. Pliny wanted his son to be an activist, so instead of reading him fairytales or singing lullabies, he read classical literature to Arthur.

Pliny died when Arthur was only six years old, leaving Mary to raise their son independently. Mary and Arthur were very close. In Arthur's teenage years, he changed his name to Alain Leroy Locke. In 1902, Alain Locke graduated high school.

At the time he graduated from high school, Alain suffered from rheumatic fever. The disease damaged his heart. He never fully recovered.

College

Alain Locke received two Bachelor of Arts degrees from Harvard University: Literature and Philosophy. In 1907 he won the Rhodes Scholar Award. Locke was the first African American to win this award, and it should have granted Locke entry into any Oxford college. Still, many colleges denied him entrance because of his race.

Eventually, Oxford's Hertford College accepted Locke. College at Oxford was difficult for Locke. Other African Americans at Harvard, though Locke rarely spoke with them. At Oxford, the white people treated him differently from those at Harvard. Locke did not enjoy his time at Hertford as the people were cruel to him.

He returned to Harvard and received his doctorate in 1917. Locke preferred the welcoming atmosphere of Harvard to the coldness of Oxford.

Alain Leroy Locke: Biography & Works Hertford Oxford StudySmarter

Hertford, Oxford. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Career

Locke began his career as an assistant professor at Howard University in 1914, the same college his father graduated from. He taught Philosophy, English, and Teacher education.

Locke was fired in 1925 for trying to get African American workers the same pay as white workers. Locke would return to Howard three years later when the college got its first African American president, Mordecai Johnson. Locke was a professor at this university until he retired in 1953.

Philosophy:

The study of knowledge and reality.

Private Life

Alain Locke was a gay man living in a time when being gay was dangerous. He was as honest about his sexuality as he could safely be. Being gay affected his career, as Alain occasionally had relationships with men he was working with. Locke was very open about wanting to find love, but he never did. Some historians say that the love that Locke found was for uplifting the African American race.

Death and Memorial

Locke died of heart complications in 1954. He was cremated, but it would be sixty years before he was buried! Locke's ashes were given to a close friend, Arthur Faust, in a brown paper bag. When Faust died in 1983, his daughter gave the remains to a reverend to bring them to Howard University.

The remains stayed in the research center of Howard University along with Locke's research until 2004, when they were given an urn. Another ten years before, African American Rhodes Scholars planned and funded a memorial and burial for Locke. In 2014, Alain Locke was finally laid to rest.

Alain Leroy Locke Works

Locke wanted America and the rest of the world to understand and appreciate black culture. He wrote articles about race, gave lectures at Howard University, and published books filled with stories, art, and poems about experiencing life as a black man. His work was often cheerful and looked toward a brighter future for African Americans. Let's look into his most important books!

The Harlem Renaissance:

A cultural movement bought to life at the beginning of the 20th century that focused on creating art, works of literature, and scholarly studies to uplift the African American community.

Alain Leroy Locke Books

The New Negro was a collection of some of the Harlem Renaissance's most influential authors and artists. Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, and Zora Neale Hudson are a few authors featured in this book, made up of poems, essays, art, and fictional stories. This book was meant to show what African Americans had to offer.

The New Negro was a concept that Locke created. Locke saw that African Americans were changing. They were no longer afraid of being laughed at by white people. They were ready to put their art into the world in an authentic way to themselves. Locke believed that every twelve or so years, a new group of New Negros would become activists and bring new energy into the movement.

This book earned Locke the title "Father of the Harlem Renaissance." Not only because of its cultural significance but because of Locke's role in guiding the young artist into making something together that sent a louder message than any of them could on their own.

Alain Leroy Locke: Biography & Works Image from New Negro StudySmarter

Image from The New Negro. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Negro in American Culture was going to be Locke's last book. This was to be the highlight of his career, but as Locke's health was failing, he asked his goddaughter, Margaret Just Butcher, to complete his book, which she did and published in 1956.

Alain Leroy Locke's Poems

The Younger Generation comes, bringing its gifts. They are the first fruits of the Negro Renaissance. Youth speaks, and the voice of the New Negro is heard."

–Alain LeRoy Locke

Locke did not write poetry but was an admirer. In his essays and articles, Locke would include poetry as an example of his themes. When working on The New Negro Locke was given a chance to mentor some of his favorite poets from the younger generations. He continued to be a mentor all his life.

Alain Leroy Locke Quotes

Art must discover and reveal the beauty which prejudice and caricature have overlaid."

–Alain Locke

Locke thought the only way for black and white people to be equals was for African Americans to create art. If African Americans could make good art, white people would lose their ideas about African Americans.

Prejudice:

An unfair dislike for someone based on ideas that were already had.

Caricature:

An image of someone where personal and physical features are made to look silly to bully them and people who may look like them.

The day of "aunties," "uncles" and "mammies" is equally gone. Uncle Tom and Sambo have passed on."

–Alain Locke

"Aunties," "Uncles," "Mammies" Uncle Tom, and Sambo are all negative images of African Americans. When Locke said they were gone, he meant that African Americans would no longer feel embarrassed by these images. The new generation of African Americans would create art and be unashamed even if people mocked them for using these.

Alain Leroy Locke Significance

For good reasons, Alain Leroy Locke was known as the Father of the Harlem Renaissance. He earned this title by cultivating a younger generation of artists. Locke believed that the only way for black people to be treated as equals was to share the art of black people. Through New Negro, Locke brought together black and white people to tell a story. After the publication of New Negro Locke continued to act as a guide for younger generations, helping them find their voice.

Alain Leroy Locke - Key Takeaways

  • Alain Locke was an important figure during the Harlem Renaissance: artist, scholar, and mentor of younger generations of black activists and poets.
  • Locke published New Negro, an influential and renowned space for black artists.
  • Locke was a professor at Howard University for most of his life.
  • Locke was a philosopher.
  • Locke believed that the Negro Movement would not end with the Harlem Renaissance but continue as each generation took over the movement and breathed new life into it.

Frequently Asked Questions about Alain Leroy Locke

Alain Leroy Locke was born in 1885 in Philadelphia.  

Alain Leroy Locke was an author and scholar, known as the "Father of the Harlem Renaissance" and the publisher of The New Negro

Alain Leroy Locke was famous for being the "Father of the Harlem Renaissance" and the publisher of The New Negro

Alain Leroy Locke mentored young writers during the Harlem Renaissance. He also published The New Negro

Alain Leroy Locke influenced writers by mentoring them and publishing their work.  

Final Alain Leroy Locke Quiz

Question

What is Alain Locke's most important book?

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Answer

The New Negro

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Question

What award allowed Locke to go to Oxford?

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Answer

Rhodes Scholar Award

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Question

Why did Locke have issues getting into an Oxford college?

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Answer

They would not allow him in because of his race.

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Question

At Howard University Locke taught English, Teacher Education, and ____.

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Answer

Philosophy 

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Question

What was a cultural movement that focused on creating art, works of literature, and scholarly studies in the black community? 

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Answer

Harlem Renaissance 

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Question

What earned Locke the title, "Father of the Harlem Renaissance"?

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Answer

The New Negro

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Question

What was Locke's last book that he didn't finish?

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Answer

The Negro in American Culture 

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Question

What is a dislike for someone based on ideas that were already had?

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Answer

Prejudice

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Question

What is an image of someone where their features are made to look silly in order to bully them and people who may look like them?

Show answer

Answer

Caricature 

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Question

Locke thought that if African Americans created ____ they would be treated fairly.

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Answer

Art

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Question

Where did Locke receive his doctorate?

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Answer

Harvard

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Question

Why was Locke fired from Howard Univeristy?

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Answer

He wanted equal pay for black and white people.

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Question

Why did Locke return to Howard University?

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Answer

The university hired its first African American professor.

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Question

What did Locke want America and the rest of the world to do with black culture?

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Answer

Appreciate it

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Question

Which of the following was not featured in The New Negro?

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Answer

Jazz Lyrics

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