Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the 2018 National Book Award for Nonfiction, The New Negro is a comprehensive biography of the 20th-century philosopher, curator, and prime mover of the Harlem Renaissance.
...a vitally important, astonishingly well researched, exhaustive biography of the brilliant, complex, flawed, utterly fascinating man who, if he did not start the movement, served as its curator, intellectual champion, and guiding spirit ... His account of Locke’s life is detailed, sometimes astoundingly so, but never descends into tedium. More important, he displays a thorough grasp of the intellectual challenges Locke took on ... On his death, in 1954, Locke left behind achievements that deserve to be more widely celebrated, and this biography represents a serious, worthy attempt to get the party started.
...Stewart’s biography aims to heave Locke out of obscurity and prop him next to the reputations he launched. At more than nine hundred pages, it’s a thudding, shapeless text, despotic in its pedantry and exhausting in its zeal, marked by excruciating attention to the most minuscule irrelevances. This is touching—and strangely fitting. Stewart’s research arrives at a kind of Lockean intensity. But even Stewart’s vigor falters as Locke’s own scholarly energies start to wane ... The New Negro was a hero, a fetish, a polemical posture—and a blurry portrait of a flinching soul. But Locke took his place, at last, in the history he wished to redeem.
In describing Locke's life as a black man, a thinker and fighter in social causes, and a homosexual, Stewart, professor of black studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, must in a way describe many different Alain Lockes. That such a gripping and cohesive narrative could be forged out of such fractured material is no mean accomplishment ... Stewart's literary analysis of this movement and its many works, offshoots, and descendants is unerringly sharp and interesting, and he refreshingly includes as much that speaks against his subject as speaks for him ... Jeffrey Stewart has written the definitive study that life has always warranted – and, fittingly, he's made it excellent reading in the process.