New Book: Alain Locke Biography

Order Today from University of Chicago Press

Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth
Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher
448 pages, 21 halftones 6 x 9 © 2008

Philosophy professor Harris and English professor Molesworth fuse disciplines in this groundbreaking study of Locke (1885–1954), the preeminent African-American aesthetician and philosopher in the years between WWI and WWII, most familiar as the editor of the New Negro, “the chief group presentation of the values and interests of the Harlem Renaissance.” The authors are painstakingly detailed along the usual biographical path—childhood, education (Harvard; Oxford, where Locke was the first African-American Rhodes scholar), work (Howard University professor, editor, writer). The authors’ separate perspectives bring uncommon depth and detail to the analysis of their subject’s multiple interests: “philosophy, cultural criticism, race theory, adult education, and esthetics, among others.” Locke the thinker holds the center in this biography, but all around are glimpses of Locke the social being—a who’s who of turn-of-the-century Harvard and of decades of African-American writers, scholars and political figures. Harris and Molesworth are as exhausting as they are exhaustive, and in delineating Locke’s life with dense archival richness, the authors have given historians of the Harlem Renaissance, in particular, welcome material to mine for years to come. (Publishers Weekly, October 27)