Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Festus Claudius McKay  

Pen Name: Claude McKay

Genre:

Born: September 15, 1989 Sunny Ville, Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, British West Indies (now Jamaica)

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Illinois Connection

Festus McKay lived in Chicago from 1944 until his death in 1948.

Biographical and Professional Information

Festus Claudius McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. McKay left for the U.S. in 1912 to attend Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute, but did not become an American citizen until 1940. He was shocked at the racism he encountered here and was attracted to communism in his early life, but he was never a member of the Communist Party. Becoming disillusioned with communism, McKay embraced the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, to which he converted in 1944.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

A Long Way From Home (Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the Americas (MELA))
ISBN: 0813539676

Rutgers University Press. 2007

Claude McKay (1889–1948) was one of the most prolific and sophisticated African American writers of the early twentieth century. A Jamaican-born author of poetry, short stories, novels, and nonfiction, McKay has often been associated with the “New Negro” or Harlem Renaissance, a movement of African American art, culture, and intellectualism between World War I and the Great Depression. But his relationship to the movement was complex. Literally absent from Harlem during that period, he devoted most of his time to traveling through Europe, Russia, and Africa during the 1920s and 1930s. His active participation in Communist groups and the radical Left also encouraged certain opinions on race and class that strained his relationship to the Harlem Renaissance and its black intelligentsia.

In his 1937 autobiography, A Long Way from Home, McKay explains what it means to be a black “rebel sojourner” and presents one of the first unflattering, yet informative, exposés of the Harlem Renaissance. Reprinted here with a critical introduction by Gene Andrew Jarrett, this book will challenge readers to rethink McKay’s articulation of identity, art, race, and politics and situate these topics in terms of his oeuvre and his literary contemporaries between the world wars.

Harlem, Negro metropolis
ISBN: 0156389460

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 1968

Book by McKay, Claude

Selected Poems of Claude McKay
ISBN: 0805758488

Harcourt. 1969

Dialect Poetry of Claude McKay (The Black heritage library collection)
ISBN: 0836989821

Ayer Co Pub. 1990

Harlem Glory: A Fragment Of Aframerican Life
ISBN: 0882861638

Charles H Kerr. 1990

Written in the late 1940s but unpublished till now, this superb portrayal of Black life during the Great Depression and the New Deal is virtually a sequel to the classic Home to Harlem. Mckay's vivid, warm evocations of the omnipresent numbers racket, all-night jazz parties and the whole exuberant and cacophonous clash of social movements and ideologies - Black nationalism and industrial unionism as well as incipient Muslim and other heterodox religious formations - provide the context for a fast-paced narrative of love, work, play and revolt in Black America during one of the most stirring periods in US history. Astutely sensitive to the extraordinary vitality and diversity of Black culture, and drawing on the author's experiences in the IWW and the extreme Left of the socialist movement, Harlem Glory reveals Claude McKay at his very best.

Selected Poems (Dover Thrift Editions)
ISBN: 0486408760

Dover Publications. 1999

In his 1918 autobiographical essay, "A Negro Poet Writes," Claude McKay (1889–1948), reveals much about the wellspring of his poetry.
"I am a black man, born in Jamaica, B.W.I., and have been living in America for the last years. It was the first time I had ever come face to face with such manifest, implacable hate of my race, and my feelings were indescribable … Looking about me with bigger and clearer eyes I saw that this cruelty in different ways was going on all over the world. Whites were exploiting and oppressing whites even as they exploited and oppressed the yellows and blacks. And the oppressed, groaning under the leash, evinced the same despicable hate and harshness toward their weaker fellows. I ceased to think of people and things in the mass. [O]ne must seek for the noblest and best in the individual life only: each soul must save itself."
So wrote the first major poet of the Harlem Renaissance, whose collection of poetry, Harlem Shadows (1922), is widely regarded as having launched the movement. But McKay's literary significance goes far beyond his fierce condemnations of racial bigotry and oppression, as is amply demonstrated by the universal appeal of his sonnet, "If We Must Die," recited by Winston Churchill in a speech against the Nazis in World War II.
While in Jamaica, McKay produced two works of dialect verse, Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads, that were widely read on the island. In richly authentic dialect, the poet evoked the folksongs and peasant life of his native country. The present volume, meticulously edited and with an introduction by scholar Joan R. Sherman, includes a representative selection of this dialect verse, as well as uncollected poems, and a generous number in standard English from Harlem Shadows.


Awards

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