An anthology edited by Alain Locke, The New Negro was hailed immediately upon its publication in 1925 as a highly significant exemplar of the burgeoning creativity that came first to be known as the New Negro movement, then as the Negro Renaissance, and finally as the Harlem Renaissance. Behind the publication of this work lay a number of events and activities of which The New Negro was the culmination.
In 1923, the monthly magazine Opportunity began publication as an organ of the National Urban League. Edited by Charles S. Johnson, Opportunity immediately took on the character of a literary and art review. Johnson called to his aid as advisor and mentor Alain Leroy Locke of Howard University, and Locke was to remain a principal collaborator of Opportunity throughout its history.
In 1924, Johnson organized a dinner at the Civic Club in New York City in order to celebrate the publication of Jessie Redmon Fauset's first novel, There Is Confusion (1924), and simultaneously to bring some of the younger literary artists into contact with the New York literati. He invited Locke to be toastmaster. This event led to a proposal by Paul Kellogg, editor of the influential magazine Survey Graphic, that Locke edit a special Harlem number of the magazine. As the Harlem number took shape, plans evolved to use it as the basis for a book. The Harlem number appeared in March 1925 and The New Negro in December of the same year.
The New Negro is divided into two sections—part1, “The Negro Renaissance,”and part 2, ”The New Negro in a New World.” Part 1 offered Locke's title essay ”The New Negro” and articles on African art (by Albert C. Barnes) and literature (by William Stanley Braithwaite). Fiction and poetry are then presented. Authors of fiction included, Rudolph Fisher, Jean Toomer, John F. Matheus, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Eric Walrond. Poets were Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Anne Spencer, Toomer, and Angelina Weld Grimké. There are essays by Jessie Fauset and Montgomery Gregory on theater, as well as Arthur A. Schomburg's “The Negro Digs up His Past.”
In contrast to part 1, devoted primarily to creativity in the arts, part 2 offers social and political analysis. James Weldon Johnson's essay on Harlem contains the kernel of his later Black Manhattan (1931). E. Franklin Frazier provides an early observation of the middle class in an article on Durham, North Carolina. Kelly Miller and Robert R. Moton respectively portray education in the Howard and the Hampton-Tuskegee traditions. Walter White writes on the “Paradox of color” and W. E. B. Du Bois provides an article on the international dimensions of color and imperialism.
Portraits of prominent individuals by the German-born artist Winold Reiss and the decorative motifs by Aaron Douglas are striking features of The New Negro. Bibliographies by Schomburg, Locke, and Arthur Huff Fauset were appended.
The New Negro inspired other anthologies, including Charles S. Johnson's Ebony and Topaz (1927) and Countee Cullen's Caroling Dusk (1927). Other successor works were Nancy Cunard's Negro (1933) and The Negro Caravan (1941), edited by Sterling A. Brown and others.
Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).