Alain Locke

Posted on November 3, 2010


Called the father of the Harlem Renaissance, writer, philosopher and patron of the arts Alain Locke grew up in Philadelphia and went on to study first at Harvard, and then as the first African-American Rhodes Scholar, at Oxford and later, at the University of Berlin and the Coll├Ęge de France in Paris.

Locke returned to the U.S. and became first an assistant professor of English at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and then after getting his PhD in philosophy from Harvard, he became the Chair of the Philosophy Department at Howard.

Locke became a great promoter of art, literature and music, writing influential essays aimed at both whites and African Americans. He pushed artists to draw on African American themes and history in their work while discarding stereotypes and images of blacks as inferior. His essay anthology The New Negro was extremely influential in promulgating his ideas, and he had a great impact on a wide range of Harlem Renaissance luminaries.

He was also a closeted gay man, and written information about him tends to gloss over this fact.

Locke died in 1954, aged 68.

Alain Leroy Locke has a Wikipedia page, here. Much writing by and about him can be found on Amazon, here, including Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth, which discusses Locke’s homosexuality.