Announcing our 2021 Award Winners and Top 20 Books of the Year

The New Negro: Book summary and reviews of The New Negro by Jeffrey C. Stewart

The New Negro

The Life of Alain Locke

by Jeffrey C. Stewart

The New Negro by Jeffrey C. Stewart X
The New Negro by Jeffrey C. Stewart
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published in USA  Feb 2018
    944 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

Stewart's thought-provoking biography recreates the worlds of Alain Locke who, in promoting the cultural heritage of Black people, became -- in the process -- a New Negro himself.

Winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

A tiny, fastidiously dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to mentor a generation of young artists including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence and call them the New Negro -- the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Black people to greatness.

In The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally. He narrates the education of Locke, including his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar and earning a PhD in philosophy at Harvard University, and his long career as a professor at Howard University. Locke also received a cosmopolitan, aesthetic education through his travels in continental Europe, where he came to appreciate the beauty of art and experienced a freedom unknown to him in the United States. And yet he became most closely associated with the flowering of Black culture in Jazz Age America and his promotion of the literary and artistic work of African Americans as the quintessential creations of American modernism. In the process he looked to Africa to find the proud and beautiful roots of the race. Shifting the discussion of race from politics and economics to the arts, he helped establish the idea that Black urban communities could be crucibles of creativity. Stewart explores both Locke's professional and private life, including his relationships with his mother, his friends, and his white patrons, as well as his lifelong search for love as a gay man.

Stewart's thought-provoking biography recreates the worlds of this illustrious, enigmatic man who, in promoting the cultural heritage of Black people, became -- in the process -- a New Negro himself.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Book Awards

  • award image National Book Awards, 2018
  • award image Pulitzer Prize Winners, 2019

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Locke represents a biographical challenge of unusual difficulty. Superbly educated, dazzlingly intelligent, psychologically complicated, and a cultural analyst and visionary whose books and essays helped to shape our understanding of race and modern American culture, Locke could also be petty and vindictive, manipulative and cruel. Also stamping his identity was his brave commitment to living fully as a gay man, despite its various dangers. Jeffrey Stewart, rising superbly to this challenge, has given us one of the finest literary biographies to appear in recent years." - Arnold Rampersad, Stanford University

"Jeffrey Stewart's long anticipated biography of the enigmatic Alain Locke fulfills its promise-and then some. It is magnificent! A panoramic portrait of one of the great thinkers, teachers, and literary entrepreneurs of the early twentieth century, The New Negro sheds fresh light on the intellectual firmament whose brightest star discovered African American modernism in an era of cosmopolitanism, colonialism, and catastrophe, and the man whose complex and tragic life left him defeated, unfulfilled, and underappreciated... . until now." - Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

"More than an account of Locke's professional and academic life, Stewart's book offers an integrated vision of Locke's professional and personal life and many details on the innermost aspects of Locke's personal life. This is without question one of the most comprehensive and insightful biographies of an important African American intellectual. Readers will be greatly rewarded for investing their time in its penetrating and revealing pages."- Jacoby Carter, CUNY John Jay College

"Stewart creates a poignant portrait of a formidable yet flawed genius who navigated the cultural boundaries and barriers of his time while nurturing an enduring African-American intellectual movement." - Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"A magisterial biography... it brilliantly doubles as a history of the philosophical debates that girded black artistic triumphs early in the 20th century. A sweeping biography that gets deep into not just the man, but the movements he supported, resisted, and inspired." - Kirkus, Starred Review

"[A] comprehensive, richly contextualized portrait of a key writer, educator, philosopher, and supporter of the arts." - Booklist, Starred Review

"The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke is a vitally important, astonishingly well researched, exhaustive biography of the brilliant, complex, flawed, utterly fascinating man who, if he did not start the movement, served as its curator, intellectual champion, and guiding spirit... It is difficult to imagine a more able chronicler of Alain Locke's singular journey than Mr. Stewart." - Wall Street Journal

"In describing Locke's life as a black man, a thinker and fighter in social causes, and a homosexual, Stewart... must in a way describe many different Alain Lockes. That such a gripping and cohesive narrative could be forged out of such fractured material is no mean accomplishment... Locke himself was constantly re-inventing in a life that defied easy categorization. Jeffrey Stewart has written the definitive study that life has always warranted - and, fittingly, he's made it excellent reading in the process." - Christian Science Monitor

"Majestic... [The New Negro is] a master class in how to trace the lineage of a biographical subject's ideas and predilections. The attachment and longing Locke experienced in relationships with his mother, friends and lovers exerted as much influence on his work as the texts he read and lectures he attended. One finishes Stewart's book haunted by the realization that this must be true for us all." - New York Times Book Review

"Locke's achievement - and what is still more fascinating, his complex and contradictory personality - can now be appreciated in full, thanks to a monumental new biography... Drawing extensively on Locke's correspondence and archive, and offering a richly informed portrait of his milieu, The New Negro is a major biography of a kind that even writers more famous than Locke are lucky to receive." - Harvard Magazine

"A masterpiece of sustained craft, research, and historical scope." - New York Journal of Books

"Stewart's sprawling, magisterial labor of love comes as a reminder that in those Birth of a Nation days a century ago, when race relations were far worse than they are now, a fiercely independent philosopher of color set down visions of black American freedom beyond economic agendas, nationalist visions, and political protest. This book draws Alain Locke out of the shadows and bestows his legacy to artists of all colors and genders seeking freedom from narrow-minded expectations and fear-mongering hypocrisy."
- Bookforum

"The New Negro is a nuanced biography of a complicated, important figure in black and queer cultural history... Those brave enough to plunge in... will find much of interest to take away." - The Gay & Lesbian Review

"Stewart's biography is no mere birth-to-death catalogue of Locke's deeds in life; it is comprised of exquisite intellectual detail that Stewart presents as the defining engine of his subject's development." - Black Perspectives

This information about The New Negro shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Jeffrey C. Stewart

Jeffrey C. Stewart is a professor of Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Paul Robeson: Artist and Citizen and 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History.

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more biography/memoir...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: The Lincoln Highway
    The Lincoln Highway
    by Amor Towles
    Voted 2021 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Things look bleak for Emmett ...
  • Book Jacket: The Code Breaker
    The Code Breaker
    by Walter Isaacson
    Voted 2021 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    What makes humans human? It's ...
  • Book Jacket: Firekeeper's Daughter
    Firekeeper's Daughter
    by Angeline Boulley
    Voted 2021 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Angeline Boulley's young adult ...
  • Book Jacket
    A Million Things
    by Emily Spurr
    Voted 2021 Best Debut Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Our First Impressions reviewers were...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Beasts of a Little Land
    by Juhea Kim

    An epic story of love, war, and redemption set against the backdrop of the Korean independence movement.

Win This Book!
Win Taste Makers

Taste Makers
by Mayukh Sen

America's modern culinary history told through the lives of seven pathbreaking chefs and food writers.

Enter

Wordplay

The Big Holiday Wordplay

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.