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The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  36 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

A tiny, fastidiously dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to mentor a generation of young artists including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence and call them the New Negro -- the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Bla
Hardcover, 944 pages
Published February 1st 2018 by Oxford University Press, USA
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4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  36 ratings  ·  15 reviews

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Kasa Cotugno
This is a massive tome (over 900 pages), well researched and lovingly written. I had never heard of Alain Locke before, but his accomplishments were profound. Hailed as the architect of the Harlem Renaissance, he gained degrees in philosophy from Harvard and was the first African American Rhodes Scholar. Full disclosure -- I did not read this from cover to cover, and would not have chosen it had I known its ponderous size (unlike its subject who was quite diminutive), but I give it highest marks ...more
Jun 18, 2018 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Carmen by: The New Yorker
Locke became a "mid-wife to a generation of young writers," as he labeled himself, a catalyst for a revolution in thinking called the New Negro. The deeper truth was that he, Alain Locke, was also the New Negro, for he embodied all of its contradictions as well as its promise. Rather than lamenting his situation, his marginality, his quiet suffering, he would take what his society and his culture had given him and make something revolutionary out of it.
Brian TramueL
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
(((( B R E A T H )))) This was an incredible long read for me but very worth it. Alain Locke is/was not well known, but he IS an important figure as he provided inspiration for more well known artists.

Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Though regarded as the "dean" of the Harlem Renaissance, Alain LeRoy Locke's name is not one that usually comes to mind when most people think of the movement. Yet it was the Philadelphia-born philosopher who provided much of the intellectual framework for it, most notably with his concept of the "New Negro." That Jeffrey Stewart uses the name as the title for his in-depth biography of Locke both highlights its role in defining Locke's legacy and the degree to which it was a product of Locke's o ...more
An incredibly dense but rewarding read. I learned so much about the Harlem Renaissance, the changing views of Black art and culture, and the movers and shakers in the Black intellectual spheres of the 1920s-40s.

This is, primarily, a philosophical and intellectual biography of Locke. Where Stewart examines Locke's relationships, it's in the interest of how they influenced his worldview and philosophy. At times, this means that it's harder to grasp what Locke's daily life was actually like. There
Mugizi Rwebangira
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I only knew a couple of things about Alain Locke before reading this so I found it pretty informative.

Among the things that struck me:

(1) How much life for African-American intellectuals changed from his formative years (the late 1800s) to when he became famous after the publication of "The New Negro" in the 1920s.

In his early years, he was obsessed with gaining acceptance from mainstream white society and actively avoided other African-Americans but by the end of his life in 1953, he was fully
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
A masterful biography of one of the main architect's of the Harlem Renaissance, teaching me that he was so much more than the editor of 1925's The New Negro. It's undeniably a dense, academic biography: lots of detail, lots of footnotes, lots of heady content---from distillations of the philosophical arguments in Locke’s graduate theses, to psychological analysis of Locke’s behaviors and motivations, to detailed shout-outs and allusions to the many artists, authors, and cultural figures who cros ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jeffrey Stewart revealed to me a fascinating man - one that I did not know about until now. Alain Locke was brilliant, leading a very interesting, eventful life - embracing The New Negro along with his homosexuality.
Sue Davis
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of course I didn’t read every word or even every chapter of this enormous biography but I can say that it is wonderful and enlightening. Helpful to me as I am as always interested in the variety of ideas and strategies the black leaders used in their endeavor to transcend the legacy of slavery.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Michael Malice
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
the most comprehensive biography i've ever read
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Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Summary: Long, detailed, and requiring of thoughtful reading; interesting enough to make the effort worthwhile.

This is an incredibly detailed biography of Alain Locke, an important figure who helped shape the Harlem renaissance. He was the first African American Rhodes scholar and an influential professor of philosophy with a PhD from Harvard. He helped mentor many better known writers, including Langston Hughes, and influenced the way Americans of all races viewed African American art.

One of th
David D Bair
rated it it was amazing
Jun 03, 2018
Chris Timmons
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
A deeply researched, deeply engaged life of Alain Locke. In many ways, it is definitive: its comprehensiveness, its often astute understanding of Locke's motivations, and its mastery of Locke's complex ideas will make it the definitive account for a generation. Stewart's achievement is great: but this is a greatly flawed biography. And Alain Locke deserves a more elegant, slender, and worldly treatment.
Ellice Forman
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Jul 15, 2018
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Jeffrey C. Stewart is a professor of Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Jeffrey C. Stewart is a graduate of Yale University, where he received his M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in American Studies. He was Director of Research at the Smithsonian Institution's Anacostia Museum, a curator at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, and a senior advisor to the Reginald Lewis M