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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $48.50

962 pp.
38 illustrations, 6.125" x 9.25"


Publication date:
January 2018

Imprint: OUP US

The New Negro

The Life of Alain Locke

Jeffrey C. Stewart

Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

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 Black people to greatness.

In The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally. He narrates the education of Locke, including his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar and earning a PhD in philosophy at Harvard University, and his long career as a professor at Howard University. Locke also received a cosmopolitan, aesthetic education through his travels in continental Europe, where he came to appreciate the beauty of art and experienced a freedom unknown to him in the United States. And yet he became most closely associated with the flowering of Black culture in Jazz Age America and his promotion of the literary and artistic work of African Americans as the quintessential creations of American modernism. In the process he looked to Africa to find the proud and beautiful roots of the race. Shifting the discussion of race from politics and economics to the arts, he helped establish the idea that Black urban communities could be crucibles of creativity. Stewart explores both Locke's professional and private life, including his relationships with his mother, his friends, and his white patrons, as well as his lifelong search for love as a gay man.

Stewart's thought-provoking biography recreates the worlds of this illustrious, enigmatic man who, in promoting the cultural heritage of Black people, became - in the process - a New Negro himself.

Readership : Suitable for readers interested in the history of the Harlem Renaissance, African American biography, the history of philosophy, the Black arts movement, and LGBTQ history.


  • "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

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

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

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

Writing History - William Kelleher Storey and Towser Jones
The Works of Alain Locke - Edited by Charles Molesworth
Foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Voices from the Harlem Renaissance - Edited by the late Nathan Irvin Huggins
Harlem Renaissance - the late Nathan Irvin Huggins
Foreword by Arnold Rampersad
The Harlem Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction - Cheryl A. Wall
Some of These Days - James Donald

Special Features

  • The definitive biography of Alain Locke--using previously unavailable primary sources and oral interviews with those who knew Locke personally.
  • Modeled on Locke's key work and a cornerstone of the Harlem Renaissance, The New Negro: An Interpretation, which launched the idea of Black beauty.
  • Advances the work of gay and gender ambiguous artists in the Harlem Renaissance and other artistic movements.
  • Promotes Locke's revitalization of urban Black America, through local arts community centers in Black libraries, HBCUs, and neighborhoods around the nation.