Alain Locke: “Enter the New Negro”

(1925)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

“Enter the New Negro” is a sophisticated, densely written analysis of the “New Negro,” the African American who is shedding the cultural stereotypes and limitations of the past and asserting a new identity not just in the political and social spheres but in art and literature as well. It draws heavily on Locke’s background as a student of both literature and philosophy. It was not in any sense a strident “call to arms” but rather a closely reasoned appeal to African Americans—and to white Americans—to recognize the fundamental change that was taking place in African American culture and in the psychology of the black community.

Paragraphs 1–6

Locke begins by asserting that a change has taken place in the life of the American Negro. He refers to the sociologist, the philanthropist, and the race leader as the three “norns” who have traditionally examined issues surrounding blacks; the reference is to the three goddesses in Norse mythology...

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