Analysis Of Alain Locke's The New Negro

1646 Words7 Pages
In 1925, philosopher and leading black intellectual Alain Locke published the short essay The New Negro. In this essay, Locke describes the contemporary conditions of black Americans, and discusses the trajectory and potential of black culture to affect global change in its historical moment (Locke 47). Locke wrote this essay in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance, a period in which black artists and intellectuals sought to reconceptualize black lives apart from the stereotypes and racist portrayals of prior decades (Hutchinson). The New Negro and the discourse around Locke’s work attempted to push forth a bold project: that of reshaping the cultural identity of black America with respect to the existent structures of American culture, as…show more content…
This idea has taken on many different forms over the past century and a half, and its discourse has evolved alongside the major works of prominent figures like W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Delany, and Marcus Garvey. A common theme among these thinkers is the notion of historicizing the development of black culture relative to diasporic movements in the preceding centuries. However, they differ significantly in their visions and aspirations for the culture at large, as well as in their interpretations of how peoples of African descent should behave with respect to the dominant (primarily white) societies in which they live and function. In particular, earlier scholars like Du Bois tended to “sustain their faith in a partnership with white allies, wagering that [their] commitments to ‘civilization building’ ... would hasten the day when they and their race would be respected as equal partners” (Ewing 16). In contrast, Garvey, a contemporary of Locke, supported a radical agenda for African independence, and a mass migration to bring peoples of African descent back to Africa (Ewing 76).
Locke situates The New Negro in a curious position within these intellectual histories. This matter is further complicated by Locke’s contemporary work on cultural relativism and pluralism. Although Locke emphasizes the power and significance of Garveyism as an ideology during the Harlem Renaissance, he does so with regards to its power as a unifying
Get Access