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The New Negro

The Life of Alain Locke
Written by: Jeffrey C. Stewart
Narrated by: Bill Andrew Quinn
Length: 45 hrs and 34 mins

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2018 Jeffrey C. Stewart (P)2019 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Stewart creates a poignant portrait of a formidable yet flawed genius who navigated the cultural boundaries and barriers of his time...." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jean
  • 04-08-19

Masterful Biography

This is a very long book. It won the 2018 National Book Award for Non-fiction. This is the biography of Alain Locke (1885-1954), the father of the Harlem Renaissance. He was the mentor to many black artists.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. Stewart also interviewed many people that knew Locke. Locke was the first African American Rhodes Scholar. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His main idea was that African-American communities could be crucibles of creativity. This is an excellent biography even if it bogged down at times. I had not read any of Jeffrey C. Stewart’s books or had I heard of Alain Locke before reading this book. So, I learned a lot from reading this book.

The book was 45 hours and thirty-four minutes. (That would be 944 pages in printed format). Bill Andrew Quinn did a good job narrating the book. Quinn is a voice-over artist, audiobook narrator and host of his own radio show.


3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • rfgll
  • 07-07-19

Excellent

Tour de Force
Must Read
Amazing,
In depth research on Locke
Highly Recommend this book

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Porter
  • 21-01-20

Let me guess? Locke was a gay black man?

The 2019 Pulitzer Prize winning book about the "Father of the Harlem Renaissance".

You would think that this book would easily rate 4 or 5 stars.

So why am I giving it a weak 3 star rating? Because I felt that the author missed a golden opportunity.

The Harlem Renaissance (AKA the New Negro Movement) is a period of American history that most American's do not know existed. Those who are familiar with it, are probably mostly familiar with it because of the impact it had on music (the birth of Jazz) and fashion. Other aspects (literature, drama, and philosophy) take a back seat.

Jeffrey Stewart chose to focus on Alain Locke.

Don't get me wrong, it is a biography on Alain Locke, so the subject is rightly Locke.

Unfortunately, nearly a 1,000 pages long and the book did not really provide a hook as to why we should care about Locke. Yes, at the end he discussed how Locke's New Negro impacted modern America, but thoughout the book I was more likely to think, "I can understand why Locke is less known than Booker T Washington or W.E.B Du Bois" than to think that he was a pivotal voice in black history/culture.

The book focused too much on Locke's sexual tensions/frustrations than upon his impact. When I finished this book I started listening to Robert Caro's Power Broker. The Power Broker, like the New Negro, is a huge book about a person I was not familiar with. Caro instantly connects with the listener and explains why the person is relevant. He also provides sufficient background and information about tangental characters/issues. The New Nego does neither.

The sections where Stewart discussed his philosophy/ideas were fascinating. Unfortunately, they were lost in Locke's pursuit of sex.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-01-20

I love long biographies of difficult people

I learned a bit about Alain Locke in grad school, when studying the history of Africans and African Americans in Europe after World War I. His name popped up in most of my sources and although I was curious about him, his work wasn't central to my research. This biography is answering all of my questions about him. It's not an easy listen, though, and people who don't have a decent knowledge of African American intellectual history and the Harlem Renaissance might find it overwhelming. For me, though, it's an embarrassment of riches. I am learning about his connections with people that I had no idea he knew, like Zora Neale Hurston and Charlotte Mason. At the same time, Locke does not emerge as particularly likeable, but given the things that he has to struggle with -- not the least of which were chronically bad health and living as a gay black man -- his tendency to be manipulative, intellectually dishonest (at times) and defensive, bordering on paranoid, makes sense. I have to admit that it took me about three months of off and on reading and a few restarts to complete this tome, because of the length and its density, but I enjoy biographies like this that get into the messiness of a life. The last chapter, that discusses Locke's death and Locke's legacy, soars.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Lynn Lambkins
  • 18-07-19

Disappointing

I'd like a refund or trade for another audiobook. This one was sorely disappointing to me.

1 person found this helpful