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Locke's Philosophy

Alain LeRoy Locke was a world-renowned philosopher.  Stanford University has compiled a brief (as philosophy goes at least) and comprehensive analysis of his works, which you can read here.

Charles Barkley's
Black History Month All Stars

All Star #20: Alain Leroy Locke

I speak at a lot of schools across the country, and I’ve encountered a trend that drives me freakin’ nuts. I always ask students the following question:

“How many of you want to be a professional athlete or a rapper?”

At inner-city, mostly African American schools, nearly every hand shoots up. When I ask the same question in a white suburban school, maybe 10 percent of hands are raised. I speak to a lot of schools, and this happens without fail.

I tell black kids all the time, “You ain’t gonna be me.” Even if you’re any good on the court, the odds are stacked against you. But I can tell from the blank way they look back at me: They’re putting all their eggs in this totally unlikely basket. But I get why. Young black kids get from the media an unrealistic picture of African American success. Athletes and rappers, with Denzel and Oprah thrown in.

So to mark Black History Month here at The Citizen, I’m going to introduce you every day to my Philadelphia Black History Month All-Stars. Many of them didn’t make it into the history books or even the newspapers of their time. But their stories are inspiring and worth knowing.


Alain Leroy Locke

Writer, ‘Dean’ of Harlem Renaissance

Alain Leroy Locke

Writer, ‘Dean’ of Harlem Renaissance

(September 13, 1885 – June 9, 1954)

A writer and philosopher, Alain Leroy Locke is considered the philosophical architect of the Harlem Renaissance, a less widely-known—but no less important—figure than stars Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. The first African American Rhodes scholar (and last to be selected until 1960), Locke graduated from Central High School and then Harvard University. Despite his talents, even in England Locke faced adversity. Gay and black, Locke was rejected from many schools once he arrived at Oxford University because of his race, and had trouble finding work once he returned home. But he triumphed, teaching and leading at Howard University for 42 years. Sixty years after his death, his ashes were buried in the Congressional Cemetery in 2013, where his tombstone reads: “1885–1954 Herald of the Harlem Renaissance Exponent of Cultural Pluralism”


  • Harvard University, B.A. 1907
  • Rhodes Scholar at University of Berlin and Hertford College, 1907-1911
  • Harvard University, Ph.D 1918



  • As guest editor for a periodical called Survey Graphic in 1925, Locke expanded the issue to create a collection of writings from African Americans titled The New Negro, which is now credited as the “first national book” of African America
  • Elementary schools are named after him in New York, Los Angeles, Indiana, Chicago and West Philadelphia
  • Locke Hall at Howard University named after him
    Professor at Howard University who encouraged students to look to Africa for inspiration of their works
  • Recipient of prestigious Bowdoin prize from Phi Beta Kappa fraternity


FINAL WORD: In March 1986, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We’re going to let our children know that the only philosophers that lived were not Plato and Aristotle, but W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke came through the universe.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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