Making History: Alain Locke Memorial Lecture with Donald Brown (Harvard)

Mon, 13 May 2019 17:00 – 18:30

Making History: Alain Locke Memorial Lecture with Donald Brown (Harvard)

Alain 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.

This event is free and open to the public


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 event is part of Making History: Christian Cole, Alain Locke, and Oscar Wilde at Oxford, an exhibition running from May-October 2019 in the Library of Magdalen College, Oxford.

Making History: Christian Cole, Alain Locke and Oscar Wilde at Oxford tells the story of Oxford University’s first Black African undergraduate (Christian Cole), first African-American Rhodes scholar and midwife to the Harlem Renaissance (Alain Locke), and greatest Irish wit and dandy (Oscar 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, Black and First Generation undergraduates. The exhibition showcases rare archives to allow the public a unique glimpse at the documents and drawings that bear witness to these remarkable young men’s lives and times.

Curated by Elizabeth Adams (University College, Oxford) and Michèle Mendelssohn (Mansfield College, Oxford) in collaboration with Daryl Green(Magdalen College, Oxford). Based on Making Oscar Wilde by Michèle Mendelssohn, a semi-finalist for the PEN America Biography Prize and finalist for the Biographers’ Club Slightly Foxed First Biography Prize.

This exhibition is made possible thanks to support from Hertford College, University College, Magdalen College, The Rhodes Trust, and the Oxford English Faculty.

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