Alain Locke is an American author born on September 13, 1885 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a child, he was raised in an academia-focused family as his parents were educators who instilled in him a passion for the arts and literature. After graduating from Central High School as salutatorian, he attended Harvard University to study English and philosophy. Despite his enviable intelligence, Locke faced numerous setbacks due to racial discrimination and prejudice. It was his first-hand experiences with bigotry that influenced his 1916 dissertation entitled The Problem of Classification in the Theory of Value, which explores the nature of social bias in the modern day.
In 1925, Alain Locke served as editor for an issue of Survey Graphic that focused on the major writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance. He later expanded this project into a full-length anthology, The New Negro, consisting of a series of poems, academic essays, and fictional stories. It contains works from acclaimed writers, including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, WEB DuBois, Claude McKay, and Kelly Miller. Locke’s purpose in compiling these various pieces was to showcase the talents of black artists in a world that many times ignored the works of people of color.
While Locke was an acclaimed writer, Locke’s primary job was a philosophy teacher at Howard University. His accomplishments led to the creation of Locke Hall on Howard’s campus, named after its beloved professor. However, his career as an educator was unfortunately cut short due to his battle with heart disease. He ultimately died on June 9, 1954 at age 68.