Alain Leroy Locke, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1886, became important in the Harlem Renaissance. Locke’s parents, Pliny and Mary Hawkins Locke, taught in black schools. While growing up, Locke was a gifted and talented student who was engaging. His friends and peers admired him. Locke did well in school and went to Harvard University in 1904. There, he worked under famous scholars such as Josiah Royce, George Santana and William James. Locke was the first African-American to receive the Rhodes Scholarship. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Locke attended Oxford University and then studied at the University of Berlin. He arrived back in the United States in 1912 and began working as an assistant professor of philosophy at Howard University. After working at Howard for a few years, Locke began to study for a Phd. at Harvard. Locke then returned to Howard, and, in 1921, became of the head of its philosophy department. Locke taught at Howard for more than thirty years, and retired in 1953. Shortly thereafter, in 1954, Locke died in New York City after suffering from heart problems at the age of 68.
Contributions/ Influence to the Harlem Renaissance
Locke is considered the “father” of the Harlem Renaissance, a movement among African-Americans that influenced literature, art, poetry, music and culture. Locke helped African-Americans to accept their distinctive cultural heritage. Concurrent with these goals, he worked for integration and appreciation of the broader American culture. Locke views on society, art and culture differed from those of Harlem Renaissance leaders such as DuBois. While Locke shared DuBois’ “Talented Tenth” philosophy, which focused on the most educated blacks, he rejected DuBois’ elitism and remained in contact with poorer blacks. Additionally, the leaders’ conception of the artist differed. While DuBois would have artists serve the race, Locke suggested that an artist’s main responsibility was to himself. Locke was gay, although he was not open about it. Despite this, it affected him deeply and appeared in his works. Locke encouraged other black writers to look to Africa for inspiration. Among the writers whom he influenced include Zora Neale Hurston. Locke wrote on other blacks’ work for Opportunity and Phylon, discussing African-American art, theater, poetry and music. In “Enter the New Negro,” he explored African-American identity. In other work, he collected writing and illustrations; the book quickly became a classical piece.
One of Locke’s works is “Enter the New Negro,” and this work is an an anthology, a collection of writing. This writing piece mainly talks about the transformation among the old negros to this new negro. Alain informs the readers that the African Americans in the 1920’s has evolved since the events of slavery. The black people during the 1920’s progressively were able to spread their culture into the white based society. Freedom and being able to express their artistic skills are examples that Alain explains in “Enter the New Negro,” about how the black people’s lives are changing. Up to the 1920’s, their skills for art, jazz and poetry became famously appreciated. Another work by Locke is “Art or Propaganda?”, and this writing is asking a rhetorical question to make people realize that art can be a way for the white people and black people be able to change their opinions about each other and get rid of this perception of blacks being inferior to whites. Art gives new perspectives, and he claims that art is a tool to break the stereotypes on negros. Propaganda is a problem because Locke’s views it as defensive or harsh, while art could not complete metamorphose the relationship of blacks and whites, but it could guide us towards equality.