WEB EXCLUSIVE: Black History Fact of the Week: Alain Locke
On Sept. 13, 1886, world renowned writer and philosopher, Alain LeRoy Locke was born in Philadelphia, Pa., to math teacher and activist, Pliny Ishmael Locke and educator Mary Hawkins Locke.
He was a sickly child with rheumatic fever, but coped by reading a great deal and learning to play the piano and violin. The sickness damaged his heart for life.
In 1902, he graduated second in his class from Central High School in Philadelphia and later graduated from Harvard University with degrees in English and philosophy. He was the first African American Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England.
Upon completing studies, he eventually went on to teach (1912-54) English at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he interacted with W.E.B. Du Bois and Carter Woodson. He also became a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
Throughout his career, Locke wrote and edited several works, including “The New Negro: An Interpretation,” “Four Negro Poets,” “A Decade of Negro Self-Expression,” and “Negro Art: Past and Present.” He was also a major contributor to “Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life and Survey Graphic.”
In his time, he became known as the leading promoter and interpreter of the artistic and cultural contributions of African Americans and familiarized White Americans with the Harlem Renaissance. He also stressed the contributions of African people to the world’s civilizations, particularly in Egypt. Because of his efforts, White Americans began to look critically at African American writings and other contributions.
An unusual man, Locke was a part of the Bahá’í faith in 1918 and subscribed to its beliefs and philosophies.
On June 9, 1954, the scholar passed away of a heart condition that had occurred in the spring. At the time of his death, he was working on “The Negro in American Culture,” but he did not complete it. Margaret Just Butcher took on the task and finished his final work.
On June 17, 1871, James Weldon Johnson, writer of the lyrics for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” (then called the Negro National Anthem), was born in Jacksonville, Fla., to James and Helen Johnson.
Coming from a well-educated and cultured family, Johnson was first taught by his schoolteacher mother. She instilled in him a sense of appreciation for English literature and the European tradition in music.
On Aug. 17, 1887, Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, to Marcus Mosiah Garvey Sr., a mason, and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker. The youngest of 11 children, Garvey, along with his sister Indiana, were the only two to survive to maturity.
Naturally apt to revolutionary thought and action, in his young adult years he became a trade unionist, and in 1907 was elected vice president of the compositors’ branch of the printers’ union.
On November 2, California voters will go to the polls to determine, if the nation has shifted from the “yes, we can” rhetoric of the Obama campaign to the “no you cannot” bombast of the Tea Party, according to political analysts.
This election is particularly poignant for African Americans, because it will determine the nation’s direction on job creation and significant health care reform, these analysts say. Blacks have higher unemployment rates and less access to health care than many other groups.
In a time when injustice reigned with no remorse, and in the wake of the assassination of activist Malcolm X, an uprising of young Black leaders and freedom fighters formed a group that would change the climate and pace of the Civil Rights Movement forever. Huey P. Newton along with his long-time friends Bobby Seale and David Hilliard founded the Black Panther Party in Oakland, Calif. on Oct. 15, 1966.
We’re not called ‘Negroes’ anymore. It’s a racial identification from our past; we’ve moved on …now we’re black or African American. We rarely stop to think of the power behind the word ‘Negro,’ and that at one time in our history it stood for dignity, power, and love. It meant that none of us were free, until we were all free and that we had a special bond that manifested itself in education; honor and trusting in God to give us the strength to do what needed to be done.