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Locke, Alain (1885-1954)  
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The New Negro revealed Locke's persuasion that education and culture could be decisive factors in solving America's racial divide. For him the "New Negroes" were a generation of educated African Americans who could defeat racial segregation and discrimination through the creation of art and literature.

As "midwife" to the Harlem Renaissance, Locke encouraged writers and artists to look to Africa for inspiration and to draw on African-American history as subjects for their work. He stressed the need to depict African-American characters and themes honestly and with an awareness of the need for "race-building."

Although Locke is best known as a literary mentor and philosopher, he was also a patron of the arts. His interest in African-American art and its relationship to black culture persisted throughout his life. He not only collected both African-American and African art, he encouraged black colleges to train more art historians and to enlarge their collections of art.

In addition, Locke also became an expert on African-American music. He was one of the earliest critics to argue the importance of African-American music for American culture as a whole. He considered black music "the closest America has to a folk music."

During his long academic career, Locke wrote and edited many volumes on African-American culture, while also publishing philosophical works that articulated ideas of cultural relativism and pluralism. His conviction that all cultures are equally acceptable and share important common traits found a clear expression in the volume When Peoples Meet (1942), co-edited with Bernhard Stern.

Locke died on June 9, 1954 due to heart disease that resulted from a childhood bout with rheumatic fever.

In a note dated October 1, 1949, Locke described himself as a member of three minorities: a short black homosexual. Yet, he added, he would not have been part of a sexual minority if he had been born in ancient Greece; he would not have been discriminated against because of his race if he had lived in Europe; and, finally, his stature would be above average in Japan. This intimate note reveals Locke's awareness that cultural values are constantly negotiated and must constantly be referred to the social and historical forces that produced them.

Luca Prono

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Harris, Leonard. " 'Outing' Alain L. Locke: Empowering the Silenced." Sexual Identities, Queer Politics. Mark Blasius, ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. 321-341.

Harris, Leonard, and Charles Molesworth. Alain L. Locke: Biography of a Philosopher. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Robinson, Lisa Clayton. "Locke, Alain Leroy." Africana: The Encyclopedia of African and African-American Experience. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds. New York: Basic Books, 1999.


    Citation Information
    Author: Prono, Luca  
    Entry Title: Locke, Alain  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2011  
    Date Last Updated August 4, 2011  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2011 glbtq, Inc.  


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