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Alain Locke


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Philosopher, writer, and principal theorist of the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Philadelphia, Alain LeRoy Locke graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1907. That year, he was the first African American to be awarded a Rhodes scholarship. After studying in England at Oxford University until 1910, he continued at the University of Berlin for an additional year. Except for a two-year hiatus to complete a PhD at Harvard in 1918, he taught philosophy at Howard University in Washington, D.C., from 1912 until he retired in 1953. He then moved to New York, where he died. Although he believed race to be socially constructed, Locke urged artists to rediscover their roots in African culture as a source of racial pride. At the same time, he recommended study of recent European art, for he held that the black artist could respond to his racial identity without compromising the quality of his work as a modern artist working in the United States. He thought that artistic and intellectual achievement mattered more to the advancement of African Americans than economic or political action. Locke's views gained wide attention with the publication of his anthology of black writing and art, The New Negro (1925), which included also his vision for African-American cultural renewal. In numerous later books and articles, Locke continued to present black literary and artistic achievement to the public, and he was instrumental in organizing important exhibitions of African-American art. Material he gathered in hopes of establishing a Harlem museum for African art belongs today to the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Subjects: Philosophy

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