LOCKE, ALAIN L. Alain LeRoy Locke was the first African American to receive a Rhodes Scholarship. One of the most prestigious academic awards in existence, the Rhodes Scholarship program was established in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, British financier and colonial administrator in South Africa. The award itself is granted annually to seventy-five selected students from the United States and eighteen other countries, providing for three years of study at Oxford University. Between 1902-1962, Locke was the only American black chosen to receive the award.
Born in Philadelphia in 1886, Locke attended local schools in Philadelphia and later went on to receive the B. A. degree from Harvard University in 1907. In the meantime, he had been elected to Phi Beta Kappa and had received the Rhodes Scholarship. Following his sojourn in Europe (Oxford, 1907-10; University of Berlin, 1910-12), Locke returned to the United States where he completed his Ph. D. in philosophy at Harvard. Aside from several leaves of absence and visiting professorships, Locke's entire academic career (in philosophy and English) was spent at Howard University. His major scholarly works were in the area of African American culture. Although he had previously published several books, his The New Negro: An Interpretation (1925) was Locke's most significant scholarly contribution. The New Negro was intended to interpret and explain the Harlem Renaissance to America by presenting representative literary works of African Americans during the early 1920's. Among Locke's other writings are: Race Contacts and Interracial Relations (1916); Negro Art: Past and Present (1936); The Negro and His Music (1936); and When Peoples Meet: A Study in Race and Culture Contacts (1942). Locke died in 1954 while preparing a comprehensive study of black culture which was subsequently published in 1956 as The Negro in American Culture: Based on Materials left by Alain Locke.