Claude McKay

(September 15th, 1889 — May 22nd, 1948)

Claude McKay was an Jamaican poet and novelist. He was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

McKay was born in Jamaica, the youngest son of well-off farmers. He was educated by his older brother, Theo. By the age of ten, he had become very interested in poetry and had begun to compose his own poems. As a teenager, he was apprenticed to a carriage and cabinet maker for two years. He also briefly joined the constabulary. Throughout these years, he was writing poetry.

McKay’s first travels to the United States shocked him with the racism he found there. Leaving the university program he was enrolled in, McKay moved to New York. He married his wife Eulalie there, but sent her back to Jamaica after only six months of marriage while she was pregnant. He never returned to Jamaica himself and never met the child she bore.

With literary success and multiple publications, McKay continued to travel. First, in the UK, he got into political trouble for vocally supporting the communist party. He then travelled to Russia, financing the trip by selling a special edition of his book Harlem Shadows to members of the NAACP donor list. Later, he also travelled to Morocco, Europe, and North Africa.

He was part of many political and activist groups, and was very vocal about his views. McKay hated racists and racism very violently, and was a vocal opponent of racist ideas. He was also a vocal supporter of worker’s rights and communism.

Near the end of his life, he became disillusioned with communism. He also converted to Catholicism. Shortly after both of these events, he died of a heart attack and was buried in New York.

Claude McKay is a book author.

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