Today, our featured Black Educator is Alain LeRoy Locke.
Alain LeRoy Locke was born Arthur LeRoy Locke in Philadelphia in 1885. Born to a middle class family, Locke was introduced to the intellectual life early on. Before his arrival to Harvard, Locke graduated from Central High School and the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy. While at Harvard, Locke became the first Black Rhodes Scholar.
After his graduation from Harvard, Locke joined the faculty at Howard University as an assistant professor of philosophy. He would remain at Howard for over 40 years.
While his teaching methods were looked at suspiciously by some at Howard, Locke was well regarded; admired by his students and colleagues. He was a pioneer in interdisciplinary scholarship as his work transcended standard academic disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Locke also established himself as a leading Black intellectual at this time; contributing essays to the NAACP’s Crisis magazine and the National Urban League’s Opportunity.
Yet Locke is most regarded as the “Father of the Black Renaissance” in Harlem. His publication of The New Negro in 1925 was an anthology of poetry, essays, plays, music and portraiture by white and black artists that promoted values, diversity, and race relations.
With that, Locke went on to mentor a number of artists of the time, including Langston Hughes and Zora Neal Hurston. Lock would say in the forward to his anthology:
The American Negroes have been a race more in name than in fact…in Harlem, Negro life is seizing upon its first chances for group expression and self-determination… So far as he is culturally articulate, we shall let the Negro speak for himself.
As educators, we often believe that we have the best interests of students at heart. For many of us this is true. Sometimes we take that a step too far; speaking for them rather than assisting with them finding their voice. Locke mentored some of the more gifted writers in American history. He assisted with their finding their voice and he provided a platform to speak. That’s what good educators do; they facilitate.
We should follow Locke’s lead and become facilitators.
Alain LeRoy Locke; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.
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