Locke, Alain LeRoy (1885–1954) By Chalk, Bridget; Williams, Cocoa; Fedirka, Sarah
Alain Locke was an American philosopher, editor, and critic whose influence helped to inscribe modernist aesthetics within the history of black artistry, which he defined in philosophical and political as well as artistic terms. His guest editorship of the March 1925 Survey Graphic magazine’s special edition on race, which he titled “Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro” and which he edited and extended to create his anthology The New Negro: An Interpretation of Negro Life, is generally considered a seminal moment in the founding of the Harlem Renaissance. Published in 1925, The New Negro includes contributions from what Locke called the rising generation of “Negro Youth” writers, including Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Jessie Fauset, Jean Toomer, and Countee Cullen. Locke's introduction to the volume announced a new age in African American aesthetics, one which abandoned the direct political objectives of racial uplift and dedicated itself to merging folk art with artistic experimentation. Locke was born in Philadelphia, received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard, and was the first African American Rhodes Scholar. His philosophical theories focused on race relations, cultural relativism, and pluralism, interests he extended to his promotion of writers and artists now associated with the Harlem Renaissance.