The New Negro by Jeffrey Stewart

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The Book review: The New Negro by Jeffrey Stewart

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 comprehensive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the existing 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.

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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.

From the Book: The New Negro

Alain Locke rose early on April 23, 1922, a cool, clear Sunday after Easter in Washington, D.C. It was also the Sunday before his mother’s sixty-seventh birthday. He woke her, helped her dress, and then served breakfast. Afterward, he read to her from the Sunday edition of the Evening Star. Headlines announced that the secret Russian-German economic pact threatened to break up the Genoa Conference, the Pan-American Conference of Women proposed a League of Nations, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Sherlock Holmes author, was to speak in Washington as part of his nationwide tour. Only the last caught her interest— she and her son shared an interest in psychic phenomena, and Sir Conan’s lecture on spiritualism was sure to be provocative and revealing. She dozed off when Alain launched into the details of his particular interest, the struggle between Germany and the Allies for trading rights with newly Communist Russia. That afternoon she was “stricken,” in the words of her son. He laid her down in her bed, where, at 7 p.m., she died, leaving her son of thirty-seven years alone in their home.

The next day he taught his philosophy class at Howard University as usual. Only later in that day did students learn that Dr. Locke’s mother had died. Others learned of her passing from Tuesday’s Evening Star, which carried the death notice, “Locke. Sunday, April 23, 1922 at her residence, 1326 R Street NW, Mary Hawkins, beloved wife of the late Pliny Ishmael Locke and mother of Alain Leroy Locke. Last reception to friends Wednesday evening, from 6 to 8 o’clock, at her residence.”

The New Negro

About the Book

  • Book Name: The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke
  • Author: Jeffrey C. Stewart
  • Genre: Biography
  • Language: English
  • File type: pdf
  • File size: 46 MB
  • Ratings: 4/5 (Goodreads.com)

Download The New Negro by Jeffrey Stewart free pdf.

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