Making History: Alain Locke Memorial Lecture with Donald Brown (Harvard)
Alain LeRoy Locke was known as the first African American Rhodes Scholar and, later, the dean of the Harlem Renaissance. But his own life and work have been more obscure than the creative writers he mentored, argued with, and propelled to worldwide fame with The New Negro: An Interpretation (1925). After Locke’s death in 1954, his reputation began to fade. Though a leader in Black letters, his role was primarily behind the scenes: as an editor, curator, teacher, and impresario.
This lecture explores why Martin Luther King believed that Locke deserved more credit. Or, as King put it, “the only philosophers that lived were not Plato and Aristotle, but… Alain Locke came through the universe” too.
The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception.
Donald Brown is from Vicksburg, MS. He graduated from Mississippi State University in 2014 and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. His Oxford research considered African American authors who moved to Paris after World War II. He is currently completing a PhD at Harvard, where he is advised by Cornel West and Henry Louis Gates. His research examines post-Civil Rights literature produced by Black Southerners.
This lecture is part of Making History: Christian Cole, Alain Locke, and Oscar Wilde at Oxford. The exhibition will run from May-October 2019 in the Library of Magdalen College, Oxford.
Curated by Elizabeth Adams (University College, Oxford) and based on Making Oscar Wilde by Michèle Mendelssohn (Mansfield College, Oxford), the exhibition tells the story of the University's first Black African undergraduate (Cole), first African-American Rhodes scholar and midwife to the Harlem Renaissance (Locke), and greatest Irish wit and dandy (Wilde). These 3 were undergraduates at University, Hertford and Magdalen College, respectively. By drawing these exceptional men together, the exhibition highlights the surprising shared histories of Oxford's Queer and Black undergraduates. By showcasing rare archives, Making History allows the public a unique glimpse at the documents and drawings that bear witness to these remarkable young men’s lives and times.