Christopher Buck, Alain Locke: Faith & Philosophy

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Baha'i Warrior
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Christopher Buck, Alain Locke: Faith & Philosophy

Postby Baha'i Warrior » Mon Aug 15, 2005 3:36 pm


Christopher Buck, Alain Locke: Faith & Philosophy (Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 2005). With an introductory essay by Professor Leonard Harris of Purdue University (today's leading scholar on Alain Locke).

One of the towering figures of African American history is Alain Locke -- the first black Rhodes Scholar, Harvard Ph.D., professor of philosophy at Howard University, "Dean" of the Harlem Renaissance. Locke was the most important African American intellectual between W. E. B. Du Bois and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here are the opening paragraphs in Chapter One of Alain Locke: Faith & Philosophy:

Chapter One

Alain Locke democratized American culture and paved the way for the Civil Rights movement. During the Jim Crow era of American history, when civil rights were white rights, Locke was the genius behind the Harlem Renaissance, which David Levering Lewis aptly characterized as “Civil Rights by Copyright.”1 Locke edited the monumental anthology, The New Negro (1925), hailed as the first national book of African America.2 In so doing, Locke ingeniously used culture as a strategy for ameliorating racism and for winning the respect of powerful white elites as potential agents for social and political transformation. Awakening the black masses to their noble African heritage and instilling pride in unique black contributions to American life, Locke may well be regarded as “the Martin Luther King of African American culture.”3

Without Locke, there may not have been a Martin Luther King. The New Negro movement, for which Locke was the chief architect and spokesman, was singularly responsible for inculcating and cultivating the requisite group consciousness and solidarity necessary for the mobilization of African Americans during the Civil Rights era. As Martin Luther King was a man of faith, Alain Locke was also. Based on newly discovered documentation of his conversion in 1918, we can now say with certainty that Locke was member of the Bahá’í Faith for over three decades.

As the youngest independent world religion, the Bahá’í Faith was clearly a leader in advocating racial harmony and full integration during the Jim Crow era. Through his service on several national Bahá’í committees, Locke was instrumental in organizing a number of “race amity” events. At various times, Locke lent his prestige to the Bahá’í Faith: he publicly identified himself as a Bahá’í in a 1952 issue of Ebony magazine, for example. By virtue of his being both a race leader and a cultural pluralist, Locke is certainly the most important Western Bahá’í to date in terms of his impact on American history and thought. This book documents and demonstrates the synergy between Locke’s profession as a philosopher and his confession as a Bahá’í, which confirmed his commitment to racial harmony as a necessary prerequisite to world peace.


Many books have been written about Locke's contributions to black art and culture in the United States. These books have generally ignored the fact that Locke was a Baha'i. Alain Locke: Faith and Philosophy fills in that missing link, telling the story of Locke's services to the Cause from 1918 until his death in 1954.

Based on Buck's painstaking archival research of the Alain Locke Papers at Howard University and elsewhere, this book also describes, for the first time in scholarship, Locke's philosophy of democracy ("A New Americanism") in nine dimensions -- ranging from the concept of "local democracy" all the way to "world democracy." Locke's philosophy of democracy presents a compelling argument for America's world role or "destiny" -- but if and only if America can first solve her own racial crisis at home.

This topic should be of contemporary interest, especially since America is taking such a controversial leadership role in exporting "democracy" in the Middle East and around the world. But what does "democracy" mean? And how does "democracy" compare with Baha'i social principles? Locke has a compelling answer that should interest all Americans.

Alain Locke: Faith & Philosophy is richly illustrated with rare historical photographs, including photos of Locke with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Ralph Bunche.

Retail Price: $29.95, paperback only. ORDERS: Phone: 800-788-4067 / E-mail: / Fax: 708-534-7803.

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