The Works of Alain Locke

The Works of Alain Locke

The Works of Alain Locke

The Works of Alain Locke


With the publication of The New Negro in 1925, Alain Locke introduced readers all over the U.S. to the vibrant world of African American thought. As an author, editor, and patron, Locke rightly earned the appellation "Godfather of the Harlem Renaissance." Yet, his intellectual contributions extend far beyond that single period of cultural history. Throughout his life he penned essays, on topics ranging from John Keats to Sigmund Freud, in addition to his trenchant social commentary on race and society.

The Works of Alain Locke provides the largest collection available of his brilliant essays, gathered from a career that spanned forty years. They cover an impressively broad field of subjects: philosophy, literature, the visual arts, music, the theory of value, race, politics, and multiculturalism. Alongside seminal works such as "The New Negro" the volume features essays like "The Ethics of Culture," "Apropos of Africa," and "Pluralism and Intellectual Democracy." Together, these writings demonstrate Locke's standing as the leading African American thinker between W. E. B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The foreword by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the introduction by


When I conceived of this series of the collected essays of major thinkers in the African American tradition, I had two writers in mind: James McCune Smith and Alain Locke. James McCune Smith (1813–1865) earned three degrees from the University of Glasgow between 1835 and 1837, and was most probably, before W. E. B. Du Bois matriculated at Fisk and Harvard, the most well-educated and accomplished black man of letters in the nineteenth-century. His friend, Frederick Douglass, often commented upon his towering intellect, and asked him to write the introduction to his second slave narrative, “My Bondage and My Freedom.” McCune Smith was one of the most prolific essayists of his generation. But because he did not collect his writings and publish them as a book, much of the importance of his thinking was relegated to the archives, remaining fragmented for a century and a half, his impact only partially understood. Professor John Stauffer’s edition of his collected works in this series, published in 2006 by Oxford University Press, has helped quite dramatically to restore McCune Smith to his rightful place as a major figure in the African American canon.

(Coincidentally, at the launch of this volume at the New-York Historical Society, several of McCune Smith’s descendants, responding to invitations from Stauffer, attended and confessed that they had no idea that their distinguished ancestor was an African American, since his children had decided to pass, certainly an unintended benefit of the series!)

In addition to James McCune Smith, I was motivated to propose this series of collected essays to Oxford because of my high regard for Alain Locke, the first professionally trained African American academic philosopher. I first encountered Locke’s work on aesthetics and criticism as an undergraduate at Yale in the 1969–1970 academic year, the very year that “Afro-American Studies,” as we called it then, was being introduced as a major on so many college campuses. the Harlem Renaissance was one of our two compelling African American topics du jour, as it were (along with black agency in slavery), and to study the Harlem Renaissance, one soon learned, was to encounter the aesthetic theories and the cultural criticism of Alain Locke.

For several reasons Locke was an inspiration to us, the first generation of students of color to benefit from affirmative action policies that allowed us to compete . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.