TitleThe Negro in Art
AuthorAlain Locke
MediumPrinted paper
Dimensions12 ¼ x 9 ¼ x 1 in.

Project Title

Born to an upper middle-class family in Philadelphia, Locke studied philosophy at Harvard College. He became the first African-American Rhodes scholar in 1907, which allowed him to study at both Oxford University and the University at Berlin. When he returned to the United States, Locke enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Harvard, receiving his degree in 1917. Locke taught Philosophy at Howard University, and eventually chaired the department. His contributions to journals and magazines that focused on artists and writers in early twentieth century Harlem served as the foundation for Locke’s reputation as a cultural critic and a patron of the arts. In 1925, Locke edited The New Negro, an anthology that symbolized the aesthetic philosophies of the Harlem Renaissance. In the anthology, he wrote several essays, comparing his encounters with African and European art to his desire to create a new black modernism in art and literature. He encouraged black artists to use abstract African sculpture and themes from African-American history in their works in order to create an aesthetic style that would appeal to and educate all African-Americans. Locke, and his colleague W.E.B. Du Bois (q.v.) worked with artists such as Aaron Douglas and Jacob Lawrence, providing financial support as well as aesthetic and philosophical guidance. Locke established the Associates in Negro Folk Education, which published a series of analytical works about politics, history, literature, and art. Locke wrote The Negro in Art: Past and Present (1936) and The Negro in Art (1940) for the series. His articles on African sculpture and European art, specifically German Expressionism served as the foundation for the development of black modernism in America.