Press Release: Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth, Alain L. Locke

December 31, 2008
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When you think of the Harlem Renaissance, who comes to mind? Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes? W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey? Whoever it is, chances are that it’s not Alain Locke, despite his deep influence on these and countless other key figures and his definitive anthology The New Negro, from which the movement took its name. Locke’s life story has languished untold until now, but Alain L. Locke—the first biography of this extraordinarily gifted thinker and architect of the Harlem Renaissance—finally reclaims his rightful place in the pantheon of America’s most important minds. In this engaging account, Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth trace Locke’s life and times through his 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.
An enthusiastic interlocutor and promoter of cultural figures from John Dewey to Jacob Lawrence, Locke emerges as a brilliant philosopher and a fierce champion of literature and art as means of breaking down barriers between communities—commitments that remain instructive as we continue to sort through our nation’s tangled cultural and political legacies.
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