“The New Negro” by Alain Locke

The New Negro is a work that was popular during the Harlem Renaissance. Behind it is a more outspoken defense of the dignity of black people and a refusal to obey laws on racial segregation. Alain Leroy Locke was the man who popularized the term through his anthology. Locke also paid particular attention to Negro drama as the most challenging field of Black literature to be developed by authors.

As Locke thought, The New Negro represents the ending of the first phase of the new Harlem Renaissance in culture. The anthology was compiled “to document the New Negro culturally and socially,-to register the transformations” (Locke 1). Agreeing and supporting the positive attitude of the leaders of the time, Locke wrote that “the conditions that are molding a New Negro are molding a new American attitude” (Locke 10). The author considered the hope and desire for the effectiveness of the collective effort in the cooperation of the race to be the symbol of faith of his generation.

In the preface, Locke analyzed the phenomenon of the “the new negro”, its psychology, the factors that characterized its worldview, and its internal features. The author emphasized the role of this notion as a participant in the broad cultural movement that captivated American society, especially after the end of the First World War. According to Locke, The New Negro is a natural phenomenon; it is inseparable from American culture, is its equal factor. Until recently, people wrote about Negroes and their culture “from the outside”. However, it was still not clear how black people perceive themselves from the inside, that is to say, there was no self-esteem, self-perception.

The Harlem Renaissance resulted from the changes in the life of African-American society that occurred from the time of the abolition of slavery and up to the mass migration of Blacks to the North. Therefore, their participation in the First World War, industrialization and all the socio-cultural changes in the United States at the beginning of the XX century played an essential role (Grimes 43). Locke wanted to convey the thoughts and feelings that overwhelm the black population. Locke had the idea to remake “The New Negro”, and he promoted this throughout the writing. The writer had an idea of the “inner and outer negro” (Locke 10). He raised questions about how black people have been consistently overlooked and wanted to represent diverse views in the community. Locke acknowledged that African Americans had made some progress politically on land ownership and slavery.

Like other African-American political activists of the twentieth century, Locke was on the side that the established system would come to favour the black population. However, the author rejects the idea of using negative political measures that the system demanded. This approach assumed that any hopes of the community for change were overly dependent on influential people of privileged part of society and their willing. As for art and literature, the author saw an opportunity to replenish both black and white cultures their cultural interaction.

To conclude, the author intended to write about the rise and move on from the bondman movement to what was the cause and reasoning of it. Locke’s explanation of The New Negro provides a thorough insight of the notion and its importance, particularly in time of the Harlem Renaissance. It sparked an era of racial cooperation, at least in terms of cultural acceptance and artistic exchange, and inspired a new sense of national identity among African Americans.

The Harlem Renaissance is the impetus for the formation of the image of the African-American: a man of education, talent, and talent. The Harlem Renaissance also set the stage for further struggles by the African-American population for their rights. During the Harlem Renaissance, African-American culture flourished, giving the world many truly talented and outstanding writers. It is this promotion of black culture and art that is described in the book The New Negro.

In Alain Locke’s anthology The New Negro, one of the main recurring themes is the difference between the “New World” and the “Old World”. Locke points to “the meaning of Harlem “along with an explanation of what it meant, saying that “it is a racial awakening on a national and perhaps even a world scale” (Locke 2). The author believed in democratic reform, in art and literature as a means of change and influence on the white population, believed in people and their bright future.

There seemed to be enough room in Locke’s mind for the existence of many different talents, which could thrive together. For the author, the most essential thing an African American person could learn from the Black art was “not cultural inspiration or technical innovations, but the lesson of a classic background, the lesson of discipline, of style, of technical control” (Locke 256). The anthology ushered in a new era for black artists and, in the words of Alain Locke, turned “social disillusionment to racial pride” (Locke 11). The Harlem Renaissance, when the work was written, was a new movement that ignited a new African American cultural uniqueness.

Like in The Opportunity, Journal of Negro Life, The New Negro promotes and supports the culture of African Americans in every possible way. They opened the way to many new opportunities for African-American writers, artists, musicians, and in general, for the entire African-American population. If earlier the works of African-American writers were practically not published, then at this time, their literary works were widely distributed. Until that time, all the works made about black culture and life were written as if from the outside. Locke was one of the first people to open their eyes to the lives of African-Americans at the time.

The resurgence brought about by the work of Alan Locke and The Opportunities reinforced racial consciousness through ethnic pride. They affected all aspects of African-American society; political, social, and cultural. In addition to perfecting and celebrating black culture, the Harlem Renaissance brought these new skills to white American history and culture (Mitchell 23). Locke’s book The New Negro, which appeared at this time, prompted many black cultural figures to look for sources of inspiration in their historical heritage.

Much of the white literary education was fascinated by the Harlem Renaissance writers, and black writers, in turn, gained widespread acceptance with many works published in mass quantities. Locke’s work is dedicated to the rational representation of black life and has had both a political and aesthetic purpose to some extent. The New Negro influenced a future generation of black cultural figures and gave them the opportunity to succeed in all aspects of life. This work did not appeal to any particular people, but encouraged all African Americans to stand out through achievements in the literary and visual arts.

Works Cited

Locke, Alain. The New Negro: An Interpretation. Albert and Charles Boni, 1925.

Mitchell, Angelyn, ed. Within the circle: an anthology of African American literary criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the present. Duke University Press, 2020.

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