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Alain Locke's "Enter the New Negro". Pivotal for a BLACK* identity in the 1920s?

Term Paper 2018 16 Pages

History - America

Excerpt

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Biography of Alain Leroy Locke

3 The Harlem Renaissance and The New Negro
3.1 Development of the literary movement
3.2 Intent and ideas of the movement

4 Text Analysis “Enter the New Negro’’
4.1 The Old Negro
4.2 The New Negro
4.3 The legacy of Alain Locke’s “Enter the New Negro’’

5 Conclusion

Works cited
6.1 Sources
6.2 Secondary Literature

1 Introduction

Identity. A word that defines our whole being as humans. Psychoanalytics in the likes of Sigmund Freud and Erik H. Erikson have asked themselves this very question, what is identity and how does it affect us as humans? Whilst identity has been beneficial for certain groups on earth, this hasn’t been the case for African Americans in the 19th and 20th century, as the trailblazing cultural theorist Stuart Hall, in his inimitable way disputes it in Cultural Identity and Diaspora “Identity is not as transparent or unproblematic as we think. Perhaps instead of thinking of identity as an already accomplished fact, which the new cultural practices then represent, we should think, instead, of identity as a ‘production’, which is never complete, always in process and always constituted within, not outside representation”[1].

The identity of African Americans overall in the American Society has always been dictated by the majority society who were mostly white. The identity of African Americans was solely depicted in a negative light. With their new-found freedom, African Americans were bound to change the narrative of their thitherto identity, through their own efforts and making. Hence was born a literary movement, Enter the New Negro by the philosopher Alain Locke.

In this term paper, an attempt is being made with the help of the book Enter the New Negro by Alain Locke to find out if his writings were pivotal for shaping the identity of African Americans in the arts and in the media during the 1920s. To be able to understand the movement a historical context of Alain Locke´s life is summarized in chapter two. Chapter three deals with the Harlem Renaissance and the New Negro, which is divided in the development of the literary movement and the intent and ideas behind the movement. How did the movement come to fruition and was it able to manifest itself in the minds of African Americans who were aware of the movement and help them to dismantle their identities once forced upon them by the major society and at the same time capable to build a new identity which was merely orchestrated through the eyes of themselves? Chapter four is subdivided into three chapters.

The first subchapter is a text analysis on Alain Locke’s writing “Enter the New Negro”, emphasizing on Alain Locke’s understanding of the Old Negro. Who was the Old Negro according to Alain Locke? Subchapter two highlights the New Negro. Who was the New Negro? Did the New Negro surpass all shades of hue, did it only apply to BLACK men and BLACK women simultaneously or was it just en vogue to be a New Negro? Subchapter three looks into the legacy and the aftermath of “the New Negro”. What aftereffect did Alain Locke have on African Americans who due to birth or geography were not part of the process? The final chapter gives a summary and the conclusion with an overview of the thesis if Alain Locke’s “Enter the New Negro” was pivotal for a new BLACK* Identity amongst African Americans in the 1920s.

2 Biography of Alain Leroy Locke

“People with this name have a deep inner desire to inspire others in a higher cause, and to share their own strongly held views on spiritual matters”[2].

“Alain LeRoy Locke (Scholar, Philosopher, Journalist, Educator) was born on September 13, 1885, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania”[3] to Pliny Ishmael Locke and Mary Hawkings Locke. Alain Locke’s parents came from distinguished families of free blacks. Furthermore, his father was to be the first black employee at the U.S. Postal Service, which was unprecedented back then[4]. The thirst for education in Alain Locke’s life was instilled at a young age. “His father’s father was a teacher at the institute for Colored Youth, founded in 1837 as one of the first American schools for black Students”[5]. In addition to that “his great-grandfather was a naval hero in the war of 1812”[6]. With achievements from his ancestors amidst obstacles at every corner, Alain Locke had the groundwork to progress in life.

At the age of seventeen Alain Locke graduated from his High School in Philadelphia as the second best in his class of 1902. Before enrolling into Harvard University, he visited the School of Pedagogy in Philadelphia, which he finished top of his class. At Harvard University Alain Locke enrolled in literature and philosophy and by the year 1907 earned himself a degree in both courses[7]. It was at Harvard University Alain Locke not only received the Bowdoin prize, but he was also a recipient of the prestigious Rhodes scholarship, which not only made him the first African-American but the first BLACK Student overall. With the Rhodes scholarship in his pocket, Alain Locke was fortunate enough to study abroad at the University of Oxford[8]. “Locke’s triumph as the first African-American Rhodes Scholar made national headlines, and turned him into a celebrity in the black community. It also, predictably, provoked racist opposition from some people at Oxford, including Rhodes Scholars from the southern states, who saw Locke’s inclusion in their ranks as a grievous breach of the rules of white supremacy”[9].

Although Alain Locke was clearly at Oxford for his academic merits, he was unable to escape prejudice that was solemnly targeted at him for being nothing more than just black, thus he was being denied admission to several colleges at the University of Oxford[10]. It was at Oxford University Alain Locke encountered “overt racism”[11]. According to Jeffrey C. Stewart, a professor of Black Studies at the University of California, “at Harvard, Locke had been a favorite son. At Oxford, he was a pariah”[12]. “Locke also studied philosophy at the University of Berlin”,[13] and “the Collège de France”[14] in Paris, in 1911 during his years abroad. Those formidable years as a student abroad left their mark on Locke. It was there “he got his first taste of life in Europe, where he delighted equally in art treasures and in a freer sexual climate. For the rest of his life, he would spend as many of his summers as possible there”[15].

Back in the United States, Locke started to teach English at the historic black college Howard University in Washington, D.C. By 1918 he completed his dissertation on “The Problem of Classification in the Theory of Value”, which secured him a doctorate in Philosophy. He then returned to Howard University to function “as chair of the school’s Department of Philosophy, a position that he would hold until his retirement in 1953”[16].

As Jeffrey C. Stewart debates, Alain Locke “felt stifled, sexually and intellectually, among Washington, D.C.’s, black bourgeoisie. He longed to be on the scene in New York, where in the 1920s an explosion of creativity was under way”[17]. Alain Locke played an integral part in the Harlem Renaissance, which is often called the New Negro Movement. He “promoted African-American artists and writers to look for artistic inspiration”[18] and to him “the artist’s responsibility was primarily to himself or herself”.[19] At the age of 69, Alain Locke died due to heart problems[20].

3 The Harlem Renaissance and The New Negro

3.1 Development of the literary movement

“Harlem was a city within a city, one of the most beautiful and healthy sections of the city, with its own churches, social and civic centers, shops, theaters, and other places of amusement. It contained more Negroes per square mile than any other place on earth”[21]. This is how Alain Locke described the setting of Harlem. In addition to Alain Locke’s description of Harlem, Harlemites also felt the following: Harlem is home to “the Negro of the North and the Negro of the South; the man from the city and the man form the town and village; the peasant, the student, the business man, the professional man, artist, poet, musician, adventurer and worker, preacher and criminal, exploiter and social outcasts”[22], stresses Jane M. Nadell, professor for African American Literature at Brooklyn College. Therefore, it was not a surprise some sort of movement was going to erupt, due to the different kinds of energy, dreams and expectations African-Americans from all over the Country brought with them. To be able to understand how this movement came to life, one must mention the Great Migration, which took African Americans from the South to the North, seeking for good jobs, opportunities and a life of constant fear away from Jim Crow which was part of their day-to- day life. Upon that, “World War I had introduced black soldiers to a wider world of tolerance, thus intensifying their abhorrence of American racial prejudice”[23]. Now returning home and having defended their Country bravely, they were looking forward to a warm welcome and a brighter future as heroes, but sadly this was not the case for them.

“The New Negro alerted the world in 1925 that something was taking place among blacks in New York, as well as elsewhere in the United States and perhaps around the world”[24]. Alain Locke was keen on holding this movement in a literal art form. With the help of like-minded people like Winold Reiss and Aaron Douglas, both responsible for the illustrations, the publishing firm of Albert and Charles Boni and edited by Alain Locke himself, the Anthology was finished in 1925[25]. With the Anthology, the New Negro Alain Locke did something that had never been done before in black American history. According to Arnold Rampersad, there was a “sense of certainty that black America was on the verge of something like second emancipation—this time not by the government mandate but by the will and accomplishments of the people, especially the artists and intellectuals”[26]. African-Americans artists, intellectuals have always had the feeling of not being fully understood. Their views were mostly represented, if at all by the white intellectuals. Since one can think back to the colonization of the American continent, there has always been an “assumption of the irremediable inferiority of blacks”[27]. Alain Locke personal stance was to change that view, since he was a prime example of what education, if given the chance, could do. “Thus he decided to concentrate not on statistics of sociology or treatises on history but on self-expression and the forces and motives of self-determination […]. We shall let the Negro speak for himself”[28].

[...]


[1] Stuart Hall. 1990. Cultural Identity and Diaspora. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 222. *BLACK is being capitalized in this paper due to my personal stance in which I view BLACK(NESS) as a complexity. It therefore has nothing to do with religious, political nor any kind of belief. But rather a journey to My(Self)

[2] Sheknows Blog, babynames. http://www.sheknows.com/baby-names/name/leroy (as consulted online on 26. March 2018).

[3] A&E Television Networks. The Biography.com website: Alain LeRoy Locke Biography. https://www.biography.com/people/alain-leroy-locke-37962 (as consulted online on 24. March 2018).

[4] Adam Kirsch. 2018. "Art and Activism". The New Negro: the life of Alain Locke: p. 4.

[5] Ibid., p. 4.

[6] Ibid., p. 4.

[7] A&E Television Networks. The Biography.com website: Alain LeRoy Locke Biography. https://www.biography.com/people/alain-leroy-locke-37962 (as consulted online on 24. March 2018).

[8] Adam Kirsch. 2018. "Art and Activism". The New Negro: the life of Alain Locke: p. 7.

[9] Ibid., p. 8.

[10] A&E Television Networks. The Biography.com website: Alain LeRoy Locke Biography. https://www.biography.com/people/alain-leroy-locke-37962 (as consulted online on 24. March 2018).

[11] Kirsch, Adam. 2018. "Art and Activism". The New Negro: the life of Alain Locke: p. 8.

[12] Ibid., p. 8.

[13] A&E Television Networks. The Biography.com website: Alain LeRoy Locke Biography. https://www.biography.com/people/alain-leroy-locke-37962 (as consulted online on 24. March 2018).

[14] Arnold Rampersad. 1997. Introduction to The New Negro: Voices of the Harlem Renaissance, eds Alain Locke, p. 11.

[15] Adam Kirsch. 2018. "Art and Activism". The New Negro: the life of Alain Locke: p. 8.

[16] A&E Television Networks. The Biography.com website: Alain LeRoy Locke Biography. https://www.biography.com/people/alain-leroy-locke-37962 (as consulted online on 24. March 2018).

[17] Kirsch, Adam. 2018. "Art and Activism". The New Negro: the life of Alain Locke: p. 8.

[18] A&E Television Networks. The Biography.com website: Alain LeRoy Locke Biography. https://www.biography.com/people/alain-leroy-locke-37962 (as consulted online on 24. March 2018).

[19] Ibid.,

[20] Ibid.,

[21] Helene A. Kirschke. 1995. Aaron Douglas: Art, Race, and the Harlem Renaissance. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 23.

[22] Jane M. Nadell. 2004. Enter the New Negroes: Images of Race in American Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 37.

[23] Akasha G. Hull. 2004. Color, Sex, and Poetry in the Harlem Renaissance. In: The Harlem Renaissance, eds Harold Bloom, p. 68.

[24] Arnold Rampersad. 1997. Introduction to The New Negro: Voices of the Harlem Renaissance, eds. Alain Locke, p. 9.

[25] Ibid., p.9.

[26] Ibid., p.14.

[27] Ibid., p.15.

[28] Ibid., p.16.

Details

Pages
16
Year
2018
ISBN (eBook)
9783668706064
ISBN (Book)
9783668706071
File size
512 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v426045
Institution / College
University of Kassel – Amerikanistik
Grade
1,3
Tags
Afroamerikanische Studie Harlem Renaissance Alain Locke Harlem

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Title: Alain Locke's "Enter the New Negro". Pivotal for a BLACK* identity in the 1920s?