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By Leonard Harris

Alain L. Locke (1886-1954), in his recognized 1925 anthology The New Negro, declared that “the pulse of the Negro global has started to overcome in Harlem.” referred to as the daddy of the Harlem Renaissance, Locke had his finger at once on that pulse, selling, influencing, and sparring with such figures as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jacob Lawrence, Richmond Barthé, William supply nonetheless, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Bunche, and John Dewey. The long-awaited first biography of this terribly proficient thinker and author, Alain L. Locke narrates the untold tale of his profound effect on twentieth-century America’s cultural and highbrow life.

Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth hint this tale via Locke’s Philadelphia upbringing, his undergraduate years at Harvard—where William James helped spark his influential engagement with pragmatism—and his tenure because the first African American Rhodes pupil. the guts in their narrative illuminates Locke’s heady years in Nineteen Twenties ny urban and his forty-year profession at Howard college, the place he helped spearhead the grownup schooling circulate of the Thirties and wrote on themes starting from the philosophy of price to the speculation of democracy. Harris and Molesworth convey that all through this illustrious career—despite a proper demeanour that many observers interpreted as elitist or distant—Locke remained a hot and powerful instructor and mentor, in addition to a fierce champion of literature and paintings as technique of breaking down boundaries among communities.

The multifaceted portrait that emerges from this enticing account successfully reclaims Locke’s rightful position within the pantheon of America’s most vital minds.

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Extra info for Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher

Sample text

He goes on to reminisce about the family’s sense of propriety: The family was always honest with itself behind closed doors—But how those doors were barricaded! Even the family wash had to go out on the line as early as possible—before the neighbors were up. (ALPHU 164-143/5) Again the theme of open and closed appears, and the notion of pollution is replaced with that of warfare, as the family barricades separate the world of utter honesty and the world of social appearance, where a certain amount of deception is not only tolerated but necessary—as if the family wash could make its appearance all by itself.

The struggle between a purely esthetic sense and the use of art and cultural expression for social and political advancement would be one of the dominant tensions in his life. ) In the spring of 1903 Locke argues: “In all the range of poetic literature, the nearest approaches to true poetry . . ” Though in some ways a received opinion, Locke’s high estimation of Keats shows his sensibility was open to Romantic expressiveness. Other literary topics covered are Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound” and the Prometheus myth itself, an important motif that recurs in his writing at Harvard, perhaps suggestive of Locke’s view of himself.

There was Irving Babbitt, from whom Locke took a course his senior year, who later went on to be the center of the conservative movement known as the New Humanism. There was also Charles T. Copeland, the much admired writing teacher fondly known as “Copey,” who set a very high standard in his English composition course. Barrett Wendell, a high-minded esthete who had earlier taught Wallace Stevens, was another teacher of writing, and his advanced class was much sought after. Locke was influenced by all these men, though he resisted the plain direct style favored by Copeland, and he never actually studied with William James.

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