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					                                                                   SHINING LAMP
                                                                    A Bahá’í who served humanity with radiance

DR. ALAIN LEROY LOCKE: Champion of Race Unity
        hroughout his life, Alain                                                            A New Spirit

T       Locke turned challenges
        into victories. As a child,
a heart problem kept him from
                                                                               Alain later taught philosophy,
                                                                               English, and education at Howard
                                                                               University in Washington, D.C.
doing much physical activity.                                                  He published The New Negro: An
But Alain poured his energy into                                               Interpretation— a collection of
books, the piano, and the violin—                                              outstanding art, poetry, drama,
and he became an excellent                                                     fiction, and essays by himself
musician. Alain was also a                                                     and others. It shed light on the
brilliant student. Unlike many                                                 contributions of African Americans
African Americans who, because of                                              to society, and their growing pride
racism, had limited opportunities                                              and confidence.
for schooling, his mother, father,                                                Alain wrote, “the new spirit is
and grandfather had all been                                                   awake in the masses” of black
teachers. Though his father had                                                Americans. This spirit spread,
                                       Alain Locke earned a doctorate from
died when Alain was six, his                                                   inspiring appreciation for African
                                       Harvard University in 1918, the year
mother gave him a good education.                                              American culture in the U.S.,
                                       he became a Bahá’í. Today at Harvard,
   After high school, Alain entered                                            Europe, and Africa. Alain often
                                       an Alain Locke Prize is given to the
Harvard University to study            student with the highest grades in
                                                                               traveled to Europe and Africa,
philosophy. He was one of few          African American studies.               building an extensive collection
African American students,                                                     of African art.
and it upset him that black and        not make any difference. He wrote          In 1918, while Alain was
white students stayed in separate      to his mother, “I am not a race         writing about the beauty of diverse
groups. Still, he graduated with       problem. I am Alain LeRoy Locke.”       cultures, he became a Bahá’í. He
highest honors in 1907, and was           In 1911, Alain returned to the       wrote and spoke about his new
the first African American to          U.S. and traveled in the South. He      faith. Shoghi Effendi, the head
win a Rhodes Scholarship — a           learned about the daily struggles of    of the Bahá’í Faith at the time,
famous award for study at              African Americans with racism,          wrote to him, “I have always
Oxford University in England.          including segregated schools,           greatly admired your exceptional
                                       unjust laws, and even physical          abilities and capacity to render
     Facing Intense Racism             violence. At times, he feared for       distinguished services to the
Alain faced aggressive prejudice       his own life. These experiences         Faith . . . I often remember you
from other students at Oxford.         drove him to change the negative        in my prayers . . .”
Some even tried to have Alain’s        attitudes many white people had            Until Alain passed away in
scholarship taken away from him.       about blacks. He went on a mission      1954, he actively participated in
They didn’t succeed, but their         to promote the beauty of African        the Bahá'í community’s efforts to
ongoing hostility was very difficult   and African American art and            build unity among all people. He
for Alain. He said, “I am a human      culture. He felt that change started    was, indeed, a leader of one race—
being,” and he felt color should       with “a revolution within the soul.”    the human race.

                                                                                  Photo courtesy of Locke Papers, Moorland-Spingarn
22         Brilliant Star        JULY/AUGUST 2009                                 Research Center, Howard University.

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