Alain L. Locke (1886-1954), in his famous 1925 anthology "The" "New Negro," declared that "the pulse of the Negro world has begun to beat in Harlem." Often called the father of the Harlem Renaissance, Locke had his finger directly on that pulse, promoting, influencing, and sparring with such figures as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jacob Lawrence, Richmond Barthe, William Grant Still, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Bunche, and John Dewey. The long-awaited first biography of this extraordinarily gifted philosopher and writer, "Alain L. Locke "narrates the untold story of his profound impact on twentieth-century America's cultural and intellectual life. Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth trace this story through Locke's Philadelphia upbringing, his undergraduate years at Harvard--where William James helped spark his influential engagement with pragmatism--and his tenure as the first African American Rhodes Scholar. The heart of their narrative illuminates Locke's heady years in 1920s New York City and his forty-year career at Howard University, where he helped spearhead the adult education movement of the 1930s and wrote on topics ranging from the philosophy of value to the theory of democracy. Harris and Molesworth show that throughout this illustrious career--despite a formal manner that many observers interpreted as elitist or distant--Locke remained a warm and effective teacher and mentor, as well as a fierce champion of literature and art as means of breaking down barriers between communities. The multifaceted portrait that emerges from this engaging account effectively reclaims Locke's rightful place in the pantheon of America's most important minds.
"The current neglect of Alain Locke should not make us skeptical of the claim made by [Harris and Molesworth], who call him 'the most influential African American intellectual born between W. E. B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King, Jr.' They are right." - New Republic "This is the definitive biography of the towering cultural critic and pioneering Afro-American philosopher Alain Locke. The intellectual subtlety and meticulous work of Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth forever puts Locke on our academic radar screen!" - Cornel West "A superb, eye-opening biography.... Why has it taken so long for a definitive biography of Locke to appear, when works on comparable black intellectuals abound? It's a backstory that sheds light on a practical truth: Fascinating subjects for biographies can be the most difficult to take on." - Carlin Romano, "Philadelphia Inquirer"