The New Negro

The New Negro : The Life of Alain Locke

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A tiny, fastidiously dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the twentieth century to mentor a generation of young artists like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence and call them the New Negro-the gender ambiguous, transformative, artistic African Americans whose art would subjectivize Black people and embolden greatness.

Alain Locke (1885-1954) believed Black Americans were sleeping giant that could transform America into a truly humanistic and pluralistic society. In the 1920s, these views were radical, but by announcing a New Negro in art, literature, music, dance, theatre, Locke shifted the discussion of race from the problem-centered discourses of politics and economics to the new creative industries of American modernism. Although this Europhile detested jazz, he used the Jazz Age interest in Black
aesthetics to plant the notion in American minds that Black people were America's quintessential artists and Black urban communities were crucibles of creativity where a different life was possible in America. By promoting art, a Black dandy subjectivized Black people and became in the process a New
Negro himself.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 944 pages
  • 164 x 237 x 56mm | 1,432g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 019508957X
  • 9780195089578
  • 827,431

Table of contents


Section I. The Education of Alain Locke
1. A Death and a Birth
2. A Black Victorian Childhood
3. Child God and Black Aesthete
4. An Errand of Culture at Howard College, 1904-1905
5. A Reluctant Prometheus: Locke's Intellectual Awakening at Harvard, 1905-1907
6. Going for the Rhodes
7. Oxford Contrasts
8. Black Cosmopolitan
9. Paying Second Year Dues at Oxford, 1908-1909
10. Italy and America, 1909-1910
11. Berlin Stories
12. Exile's Return
13. Back in the U.S.S.R., 1911-1912
14. Search for a Voice at Howard University, 1912-1916
15. Rapprochement and Silence: Harvard, 1916-1917
16. Fitting in Washington, DC, 1917-1922

Section II: Enter the New Negro
17. Rebirth
18. Queen Mother of the Movement, 1922-1923
19. Opportunity Knocks
20. Egypt Bound
21. Renaissance and Self-Fashioning in 1924
22. The Dinner and the Dean
23. Battling the Barnes
24. Looking for Love
25. Survey Says
26. Renaissance and Rejection
27. The New Negro and The Blacks
28. Beauty or Propaganda?
29. The Curator and the Patron
30. Langston's Indian Summer
31. The American Scholar
32. Loves' Labour Lost

Section III: Metamorphosis
33. The Naked and the Nude
34. The Saving Grace of Realism
35. Bronze Booklets, Gold Art
36. Warn A Brother
37. The Riot and the Ride
38. Conversion
39. Two Trains Running
40. Queer Toussaint
41. The Invisible Locke
42. FBI, Haiti, and Diasporic Democracy
43. Inclusion and Death: Wisdom de Profundis
44: Buried but not Dead

Selected Bibliography
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Review Text

Stewart creates a compelling portrait of Locke ... as well providing rich contextual background and insights into the cultural and political debates out which his subject emerged. Douglas Field, Times Literary Supplement
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Review quote

Jeffrey C. Stewart's comprehensive biography of Locke is a surprisingly gripping read... Locke's life story, beginning as a young black man who was born to a middle-class family in Philadelphia, and who was especially close with his mother, is compelling right from the beginning. * Vox * Stewart's biography is no mere birth-to-death catalogue of Locke's deeds in life; it is comprised of exquisite intellectual detail that Stewart presents as the defining engine of his subject's development. * Black Perspectives * The New Negro is a nuanced biography of a complicated, important figure in black and queer cultural history... Those brave enough to plunge in... will find much of interest to take away. * The Gay & Lesbian Review * Stewart's sprawling, magisterial labor of love comes as a reminder that in those Birth of a Nation days a century ago, when race relations were far worse than they are now, a fiercely independent philosopher of color set down visions of black American freedom beyond economic agendas, nationalist visions, and political protest. This book draws Alain Locke out of the shadows and bestows his legacy to artists of all colors and genders seeking freedom from narrow-minded
expectations and fear-mongering hypocrisy. * Bookforum * A masterpiece of sustained craft, research, and historical scope. * New York Journal of Books * Locke's achievement-and what is still more fascinating, his complex and contradictory personality-can now be appreciated in full, thanks to a monumental new biography... Drawing extensively on Locke's correspondence and archive, and offering a richly informed portrait of his milieu, The New Negro is a major biography of a kind that even writers more famous than Locke are lucky to receive. * Harvard Magazine * Majestic... [The New Negro is] a master class in how to trace the lineage of a biographical subject's ideas and predilections. The attachment and longing Locke experienced in relationships with his mother, friends and lovers exerted as much influence on his work as the texts he read and lectures he attended. One finishes Stewart's book haunted by the realization that this must be true for us all. * New York Times Book Review * In describing Locke's life as a black man, a thinker and fighter in social causes, and a homosexual, Stewart... must in a way describe many different Alain Lockes. That such a gripping and cohesive narrative could be forged out of such fractured material is no mean accomplishment... Locke himself was constantly re-inventing in a life that defied easy categorization. Jeffrey Stewart has written the definitive study that life has always warranted - and, fittingly, he's
made it excellent reading in the process. * Christian Science Monitor * The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke is a vitally important, astonishingly well researched, exhaustive biography of the brilliant, complex, flawed, utterly fascinating man who, if he did not start the movement, served as its curator, intellectual champion, and guiding spirit... It is difficult to imagine a more able chronicler of Alain Locke's singular journey than Mr. Stewart. * Wall Street Journal * [A] comprehensive, richly contextualized portrait of a key writer, educator, philosopher, and supporter of the arts. * Booklist, Starred Review * A magisterial biography... it brilliantly doubles as a history of the philosophical debates that girded black artistic triumphs early in the 20th century. A sweeping biography that gets deep into not just the man, but the movements he supported, resisted, and inspired. * Kirkus, Starred Review * Stewart creates a poignant portrait of a formidable yet flawed genius who navigated the cultural boundaries and barriers of his time while nurturing an enduring African-American intellectual movement. * Publishers Weekly, Starred Review * More than an account of Locke's professional and academic life, Stewart's book offers an integrated vision of Locke's professional and personal life and many details on the innermost aspects of Locke's personal life. This is without question one of the most comprehensive and insightful biographies of an important African American intellectual. Readers will be greatly rewarded for investing their time in its penetrating and revealing pages. * Jacoby Carter, CUNY John Jay College * Jeffrey Stewart's long anticipated biography of the enigmatic Alain Locke fulfills its promise-and then some. It is magnificent! A panoramic portrait of one of the great thinkers, teachers, and literary entrepreneurs of the early twentieth century, The New Negro sheds fresh light on the intellectual firmament whose brightest star discovered African American modernism in an era of cosmopolitanism, colonialism, and catastrophe, and the man whose complex and tragic life
left him defeated, unfulfilled, and underappreciated. . . . until now. * Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original * Locke represents a biographical challenge of unusual difficulty. Superbly educated, dazzlingly intelligent, psychologically complicated, and a cultural analyst and visionary whose books and essays helped to shape our understanding of race and modern American culture, Locke could also be petty and vindictive, manipulative and cruel. Also stamping his identity was his brave commitment to living fully as a gay man, despite its various dangers. Jeffrey Stewart, rising
superbly to this challenge, has given us one of the finest literary biographies to appear in recent years. * Arnold Rampersad, Stanford University * This biography is a work of profound learning and keen insight, with deep wells of empathy. * Daniel Matlin, Literary Review * Stewart creates a compelling portrait of Locke ... as well providing rich contextual background and insights into the cultural and political debates out which his subject emerged. * Douglas Field, Times Literary Supplement *
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About Jeffrey C. Stewart

Jeffrey C. Stewart is Professor and Chair of the Department of Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History and editor of Paul Robeson: Artist and Citizen.
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Rating details

105 ratings
4.13 out of 5 stars
5 39% (41)
4 40% (42)
3 17% (18)
2 3% (3)
1 1% (1)
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