Alain Leroy Locke, a leading black intellectual during the early twentieth century and an important supporter of the Harlem Renaissance, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 13, 1886 to Pliny Ishmael Locke and Mary Hawkins Locke. His parents were middle class educated professionals. A gifted and talented student, Locke attended Harvard University in 1904 where he studied under renowned scholars including Josiah Royce, George Santana, and William James.
Locke excelled at his studies and became the first African American to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. After earning his undergraduate degree in 1907, Locke attended Oxford University where he obtained another B.A degree in 1910. The following year he attended the University of Berlin in Germany.
In 1912 Locke returned to the United States where he became an assistant professor of philosophy at Howard University in Washington, D.C., beginning an academic career that would span four decades. He also joined the newly organized Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. In 1916 Locke interrupted his teaching career at Howard to return to Harvard University where he earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy. When Locke rejoined the faculty at Howard he quickly rose in rank and in 1921 became the chair of the Philosophy department. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1953.
Locke was known as an engaging, talented, accessible and admired professor by both his students and his colleagues. He was a pioneer in interdisciplinary scholarship as his work transcended standard academic disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Locke also embraced progressive, avant-garde, and, some would argue, unorthodox teaching methods while at Howard which were sometimes viewed with suspicion by more traditionally oriented colleagues and administrators at his institution.
Alain Locke has been widely regarded as the originator of the New Negro Movement and the Harlem Renaissance. His main contribution to both movements was the promotion and emphasis on values, diversity,