McKay, Claude (1890–1948)

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Author: Wayne F. Cooper
Editor: Valerie Smith
Date: 2001
African American Writers
From: African American Writers(Vol. 2. 2nd ed.)
Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons
Document Type: Excerpt; Critical essay; Biography
Pages: 15
Content Level: (Level 5)
Lexile Measure: 1390L

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Page 565

Claude McKay (1890–1948)



FROM THE PERSPECTIVE of literary history, Claude McKay’s reputation as a pioneer in the development of twentieth-century African American literature seems secure. His literary influence was felt far and wide, in the West Indies and in Jamaica, his native island, as well as in the United States and Africa. Poets as diverse as J. J. Rabearivelo from Madagascar, Aimé Césaire from Martinique, Leopold Sedar Senghor from Senegal, and Langston Hughes in the United States all at one time or another expressed their debt to McKay. In the post-World War I United States his verses inspired a whole generation of “New Negro” writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. His poetry broke the constraints of Victorian respectability and drew without reserve from his deepest feelings as an African American man.

In his fiction McKay affirms the self-sufficiency of black folk cultures. African American basic values, he believed, derived from their own experiences, cultural traditions, and racial heritage more than from a Western tradition that had historically tried to exclude black experiences. Western progress, McKay argued, continued to endanger black life and black culture. To him, industrialization, urbanization, and bureaucratization, whether managed by the Left or the Right, was killing the souls of Western men and women by cutting them off from their ancient relationship to the natural world. African American culture, McKay believed, deeply rooted as it was in rural folkways, many of which derived from Africa, not only had resisted the oppressive exploitation of slavery and racial segregation but still stood in opposition to the soul-destroying tendencies of modern life. Like all pastoralists, McKay believed that those who led an agricultural life and followed the rhythms of the seasons, as most African Americans did prior to World War I, were more closely attuned to nature’s ways than urban dwellers in the industrial West. In his novels and short stories, McKay affirmed black culture at its most elemental level by celebrating the lives of its most marginal members in the urban ghettos of the northern United States and in the small, isolated mountain villages of his native Jamaica. In the 1930s, his novels inspired the founders of the French West African and West Indian Negritude movements. Those in the United States, such as the critics George Kent and Addison Gayle, as well as others, who defend the idea of black cultural autonomy acknowledge McKay’s importance as a forerunner to their own ideas.

McKay made his odyssey from Jamaica through the United States, the Soviet Union, Western Europe, and North Africa decades before other West Indian expatriate intellectuals and literary artists more familiar to modern Page 566  |  Top of Articlereaders, among them C. L. R. James, Frantz Fanon, Derek Walcott, and V. S. Naipaul. McKay was, in a sense, doubly an expatriate. After leaving Jamaica, he made the United States his second home, and then he joined the American expatriate caravan in France during the 1920s, thereby preceding, once again, better-known African Americans, such as Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Even before Paul Robeson was lionized in the Soviet Union, McKay had received similar treatment there in 1922 and 1923. Because he had experienced his radical political phase a full decade or more before most African American writers and intellectuals who came of age in the 1920s or 1930s, McKay’s anti-Communist stance as a member of the Federal Writer’ Project in New York in the 1930s placed him sharply at odds politically with many of his fellow writers and with critics.

Among all the writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance, McKay remains the most controversial. During his lifetime, he was a man whose personality and works provoked strong, conflicting reactions. To some he seemed an opportunist who, blown by shifting ideological winds, merely wrote whatever was acceptable to the reading public, largely white in his day. In 1937, the then Marxist critic and poet Mel-vin Tolson called McKay a black Ulysses who never found his way home,- in the same year Alain Locke dismissed him as “the playboy of the Negro Renaissance” and its aging enfant terrible who had by 1937 “repudiated all possible loyalties.” Although he had his detractors, he also had steadfast defenders, among them such varied figures as James Weldon Johnson, Max Eastman, and John Dewey.

Since his death, critics have been as divided about McKay’s achievements as his contemporaries were during his lifetime. A few have insisted that McKay’s poetry and prose were pioneering works of genius. A French Catholic, Jean Wagner, and a black nationalist critic, George Kent, have both given high praise to McKay, though for diametrically opposed reasons. To Wagner, McKay’s poetry exhibits a universality of appeal that elevated his work above “folklorists” like Langston Hughes and

Sterling Brown. Kent, by contrast, finds McKay’s work important because it prepared the way for a self-consciously independent black literature. For Kent, McKay displayed “a positive niggeihood,…a naturalness of being to be maintained in the face of the most complex patterns of western culture.”

Others, however, have dismissed his poetry, his fiction, or both as dated, uneven in quality, and generally lacking in artistic merit. To such critics, he was at best a transitional figure of passing historical importance. At worst, they have endorsed his enemies’ contentions that his career was tatally flawed by ideological contradictions, opportunism, and a general failure of vision. Harold Cruse claims McKay peddled Communist nostrums, S. P. Fullenwider accuses him of pandering to white tastes, and Nathan Huggins argues that he generally lacked artistic merit. Still others, such as Robert Bone, Stephen Bronz, and James R. Giles, have sought more balanced assessments of McKay, concluding that although he had a significant impact as a literary figure, his own artistic achievements in poetry, the novel, and the short story were limited.

Anyone whose work has been so variously judged over so many years deserves careful attention. McKay’s life mirrored in complex ways important aspects of the African American experience in the first half of the twentieth century. The anger, alienation, and rebellion he expressed in his poetry and the search for community he attempted in his fiction reflected not only his own life stages from youth to maturity but also the efforts of African Americans to triumph over the adversities that beset them. He was also deeply involved with the larger society, its social and political movements, and its literary trends. As an editor of the Liberator in New York City and the Worker’ Dreadnought in London after World War I, and as a committed but critical international socialist and opponent of Western imperialism during the in-terwar years, McKay consistently presented a black viewpoint where one was otherwise seldom heard. Clearly, his importance as a pioneering African American writer lay not only in his specific artistic accomplishments, but

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Claude McKay Claude McKay

also and more broadly in his ability to project African American concerns through his art and career upon the broadest possible stage and to claim for African Americans a voice and a role in the unfolding drama of world history and literature.

At the same time, McKay’s work itself, so closely related to his life at every stage, deserves closer scrutiny. Underneath its apparent failures and contradictions, one can discern in his poetry, fiction, and essays a consistency of vision that in the end defines the man and artist as a writer of genuine achievement. McKay defined the problem he so forthrightly faced in his life and art when he wrote in A Long Way from Home (1937) of the differences that separated him from white American expatriates in Paris during the 1920s:

Color consciousness was the fundamental of my restlessness. And it was something with which my fellow-expatriates could sympathize but which they could not altogether understand. For they were not black like me. Not being black and unable to see deep into the profundity of blackness, some even thought that I might have preferred to be white like them. They couldn’t imagine that I had no desire merely to exchange my black problem for their white problem. For all their knowledge and sophistication, they couldn’t understand the instinctive and animal and purely physical pride of a black person resolute in being himself and yet living a simple civilized life like themselves. Because their education in their white world had trained them to see a person of color either as an inferior or as an exotic. (p. 245)

The key words in this passage—“a black person resolute in being himself and yet living a simple civilized life like themselves”—indicate the dilemma that, as W. E. B. Du Bois had pointed out long before, lay at the heart of the black man’s struggle in America. To resolve this problem, McKay insisted throughout all his work that blacks, as one identifiable race and many distinct ethnic groups, must insist upon their right to be themselves, fully and without reservation, and also to be participants in the world’s larger community, both as individuals and as a group. But first, McKay insisted, African Americans had to recognize and embrace their own communal life as the foundation of their existence—as McKay himself did in his own life and art.

McKay was born on 15 September 1890 on the family farm, Sunny Ville, located in the mountainous center of upper Clarendon Parish in Jamaica. His parents, part of the independent black peasantry that had emerged there after emancipation in the 1830s, successfully educated all their children. The eldest, U’Theo, became a planter, businessman, and civic leader well known throughout Jamaica. In McKay’s childhood, U’Theo was just beginning his career as a schoolteacher. In fact, between the ages of seven and fourteen, Claude lived with and received almost all his primary education from U’Theo in various schools around Montego Page 568  |  Top of ArticleBay and in Clarendon Parish. A graduate of Mico Teachers College in Kingston, U’Theo was a free thinking agnostic and rationalist who communicated his intellectual independence to his youngest brother.

At the time, Jamaica was a poor but proud backwater colony of Great Britain. Its heyday as a producer of great wealth in the sugar trade had long passed, but Britain had remained to cast upon her impoverished black subjects the reflected glories of great empire. For the youthful McKay, to be a part of the British Empire seemed adventurous and romantic. As he observed ruefully in his late memoir, My Green Hills of famaica (1979), “the direction of our schooling was of course English, and it was so successful we really believed we were little black Britons.”

As a descendant of black African slaves, however, McKay also had a different heritage to which he early laid claim. In a poem, first published in the Kingston Daily Gleaner in 1912, “Gordon to the Oppressed Natives,” he identified with Jamaica’s history of slave rebellions and more specifically with the postslavery Mor-ant Bay Rebellion of 1865, which had led to substantial governmental reforms in Jamaica. The complex heritage of McKay’s Jamaica—British and African, free peasant and imperial colony— was reflected in his Jamaican dialect poetry. Out of this heritage emerged his lifelong literary themes. These themes are largely pastoral—the innocence and joys of childhood, the superiority of black rural community values over the degradations of the alien, white-dominated city. These pastoral themes clashed in the dialect poetry with a striking realism in his treatment of the economic limitations of black peasantry and their social frustrations under British colonial rule. His dialect poetry expresses the spirit of protest and the complete identification with the sufferings of his race that figure prominently in his later American verse.

The poems collected in Songs of famaica and Constab Ballads (both published in 1912) were written between 1910 and 1912. During at least six months of that period, McKay served on the island constabulary and heard many complaints from the island’s black peasants about the difficulties of earning a living in and around Kingston. Their complaints were also directed against black policemen, such as himself, whom the black Jamaican peasantry, as they moved between country and city, identified as tools of the ruling British. Thus, in “A Midnight Woman to the Bobby” (in Songs of famaica), a Jamaican woman taunts a “constab” who has questioned her motive for being on the street so late at night, by reminding him that until he donned the uniform of the constabulary, he, like many he now accosts, had been a half-starved, ill-clad country fellow: “You lef you district, big an’ coarse,/An’ come join buccra Police Force.”

The best poems in McKay’s Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads are dramatic monologues like “A Midnight Woman” and “The Apple-Woman’s Complaint” or vivid descriptions of the poor in town or country such as “Two-an’-Six,” “Pay-Day,” “Knutsford Park Races,” and “Papine Corner.” In these early volumes, though sentimentally drawn to England and compelled by a naive allegiance to anti-Christian, pro-evolutionary rationalism, McKay emphatically states his basic loyalty to the Jamaican peasantry, “My people, my people, me owna black skin” (in Constab Ballads). He pledges to them a return to the countryside of his happy childhood and renounces the temptations of the city. Although, in fact, he soon left Jamaica and never went home again, he carried with him a deep loyalty to rural black folk and a mythic memory of childhood innocence in a self-sufficient black peasant community. This pastoral vision nurtured his creative energies for the rest of his life.

After the publication of his dialect poems in 1912, McKay was persuaded by Walter Jekyll that he could not earn his living as a poet. He consequently decided that he would return to the countryside only as a trained agronomist, and left Jamaica to study at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. McKay’s education in the United States was largely financed by Walter Jekyll, an English “gentleman” resident in Jamaica, who had befriended McKay and tutored him in European literatures and languages. An admirer of the Jamaican Page 569  |  Top of Articlepeasantry, Jekyll had encouraged the young poet to write Jamaican dialect poems and had found a publisher for them. He also guided the inexperienced young author through the publishing process, supplied both volumes with a glossary and footnotes, and wrote a preface to Songs of Jamaica. An ex-minister who had left the Church of England to become an exponent of free thought and social Darwinism, Jekyll himself wrote several books on a variety of topics, such as The Art of Singing (1884), The Bible Untrustworthy (1904), The Wisdom of Schopenhauer (1911), and Jamaica Song and Story (1907), a classic collection of Jamaican songs and folklore.

McKay arrived at Tuskegee in the early fall of 1912 but stayed only a few weeks before transferring to Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Tuskegee had disappointed him. He hated its discipline and rules, and its student body and curriculum fell below his academic expectations. He remained at Kansas State for two years before deciding he had had enough of agronomy and college. His next move was in 1914, to New York City. There he married his Jamaican sweetheart, Eulalie Emelda Le-wars. With money from Jekyll, McKay opened a small West Indian restaurant. Neither his business nor his marriage lasted long. The dynamism and variety of the city, both day and night, combined with the variety and vitality of its growing black community, distracted McKay from both business and marriage. His restaurant went bankrupt, and Eulalie, pregnant and dissatisfied with her husband’s inattentive-ness, returned to her family in Jamaica to have their baby. Although not divorced, the McKays never lived together again. A daughter was born of their brief union,- McKay never met her, but she eventually maintained a long correspondence with him. A portion of his irregular and often meager earnings went to her support in Jamaica.

McKay’s sexual preferences proved highly unorthodox and clashed at every point with conventional notions of marriage. He believed in free love, he was bisexual, and he had affairs with whomever attracted him, man or woman. In New York, perhaps for the first time, he was able to give free reign to his homosexual inclinations, which he had previously implied in his dialect poetry (see “Bennie’s Departure,” in Constab Ballads).

Freed of marriage and the responsibility of business, McKay took a series of menial jobs and resumed his writing career. From 1914 until 1919, he worked and wrote poetry in his spare moments. In his new verses he moved away from dialect poetry and wrote short, rhymed lyrics, many of them sonnets, about his Jamaican childhood, love, and aspects of the racial conflict in America. Stylistically, they were modeled upon the Elizabethan and Romantic mfldd& {soak aimiKii JSZMJOSS, toi them McKay infused his own passions and concerns for racial justice.

McKay’s renewed literary efforts began at a fertile time and in a fertile place. In the United States, the assault against Victorian gentility was already well under way, and New York would soon be its center. McKay avidly read the city’s newspapers and literary magazines. He also familiarized himself with the radical political movements and journals of the day. His first New York publication was in Seven Arts, which published the poems “The Harlem Dancer” and “Invocation” in October 1917. Pearson’s Magazine included four of his poems— “The Conqueror,” “Harlem Shadows,” “Is it Worthwhile,” and “To the White Fiends”—in its September 1918 issue. And in its July 1919 issue Max Eastman’s Liberator published two pages featuring his sonnets and other lyrics that included “If We Must Die,” McKay’s defiant call for blacks to fight back against white mobs that were attacking blacks that summer. The post-war period in the United States saw violent white reactions against blacks eager to share the fruits of democracy. “If We Must Die” brought McKay immediate fame among African Americans, and he became a regular contributor to the Liberator, then America’s foremost journal of radical art and literature.

Late in 1919 McKay accepted an offer of free passage to England from an admirer,- from the late fall of 1919 through 1920, he lived in London and wrote articles and poems for Sylvia Pankhurst’s Communist weekly, the Worker’ Page 570  |  Top of ArticleDreadnought. Under his own name and the pseudonyms Eli Edwards and Hugh Hope (the pseudonyms used to keep his employer from knowing he was a writer), McKay wrote revolutionary poetry and political articles in which he clearly defined his belief that those involved in international communism and colonial movements for national independence were natural allies against European and American imperial domination. British and American Communists, he said, must accept the colored peoples of the world as equals and assist in the demise of European imperialism abroad if they desired revolution at home. He stated that he was supporting Marcus Garvey’s international black nationalist movement because “for subject peoples, at least, nationalism is the open door to communism.”

McKay’s sojourn in London coincided with the efforts of Pankhurst’s group and other radical socialists in England to form the British Communist Party. As a participant in Pankhurst’s faction, McKay gained valuable experience as a radical journalist and observed closely the strengths and shortcomings of Communists in Great Britain. Although he trusted Pankhurst because she championed blacks and supported the Irish and other colonial independence movements, from the start, McKay adopted a generally critical stance toward most Communists. For them to succeed, he believed they had to accept blacks as absolute equals, just as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) had done earlier in the United States.

Although deeply involved politically with Pankhurst’s Worker’ Dreadnought, McKay went elsewhere to publish his poetry. For it, he sought out C. K. Ogden, the editor of the prestigious Cambridge Magazine. In the summer 1920 issue Ogden published twenty-three of McKay’s nonpolitical lyrics. Ogden ranked McKay with Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke as the young poets of the World War I generation he most admired. He persuaded the London publisher Grant Richards to print McKay’s verse in a slender volume entitled Spring in New Hampshire and Other Poems (1920). Ogden even called upon his friend and fellow critic I. A. Richards to write a short introduction to the volume.

Shortly after Spring In New Hampshire appeared in the fall of 1920, Pankhurst and some of her associates were jailed for printing articles that violated Great Britain’s wartime Defence of the Realm Act. The articles dealt with disaffection in the Royal Navy. They had been written by a young British sailor whom McKay had befriended and encouraged. McKay destroyed the original articles and letters by the sailor and made sure that when agents from Scotland Yard visited his room, they found only poems. With Pankhurst’s arrest, however, her associates split into quarreling factions and McKay decided to return to the United States. Early in 1921 he was back in New York, where he spent 1921 and most of 1922 as an associate editor of the Liberator. For a while in 1922, after its chief editor, Max Eastman, had left the Liberator, McKay co-edited the magazine with Michael Gold, the author of the semiautobio-graphical novel Jews Without Money (1930).

In his earlier sojourn in New York, between 1914 and 1919, McKay had been politically closest to Hubert Harrison, Harlem’s foremost pre-war socialist and IWW organizer. He had also met or corresponded with A. Phillip Randolph and Chandler Owen, editors of the Messenger, a black socialist monthly based in Harlem. In addition, there were a few other West Indian socialists in Harlem at this time whose ideas concerning the connections between the Bolshevik Revolution, European imperialism, and colonial independence movements influenced McKay’s political thought. Besides Harrison, a Virgin Islands native, these included W. A. Domingo and Cyril Briggs both fellow Jamaicans. When Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA) emerged as a mass movement after World War I, all these men, including McKay, tried to assist it in various ways, but Garvey proved unamenable to their socialist thought. By the time of McKay’s return in 1921, Harrison had become an independent lecturer, while Briggs was directing his own semisecret African Blood Brotherhood (founded in 1919), which would shortly merge Page 571  |  Top of Articlewith the Communist party. McKay himself wrote an article critical of Garvey’s unrealistic attitudes and goals, “Garvey as a Negro Moses,” for the Liberator (5:8-9 [April 1922]).

Aside from Max Eastman, McKay’s most valuable literary benefactor was Joel Spingarn, a distinguished professor of literature at Columbia University. Spingarn was also an important official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, already the nation’s leading black civil rights organization, with headquarters in New York City. Through Spingarn’s influence, McKay had published his first verses in the United States in 1917. After his return from London, McKay resumed his contact with Springarn, who was also instrumental in getting Harcourt, Brace to accept his next volume of poetry, Harlem Shadows, an enlarged version of Spring in New Hampshire, in 1922.

McKay’s heart lay, however, with Liberator and its predecessor, Masses, which had been suppressed during World War I. The artists and writers of Masses and Liberator were free-spirited, innovative, and yet politically committed to remaking society along socialist lines. He could join them without giving up any of his concerns as a black man. When offered the chance by Max Eastman to help edit the publication in 1921, he had accepted the challenge without any hesitation. He loved the camaraderie of its editors and contributors, the bohemian life of Greenwich Village, and the sense of achievement he felt with the appearance of each issue. He developed a lasting friendship with Max Eastman, the magazine’s guiding spirit, whose attachment to conventionally romantic verse forms he shared. He also became friends with significant American artists who contributed to the magazine and many other notable writers and personalities of the period. He had a good time, a stimulating and rewarding time. But through it all, he remained committed to revolutionary change. He joined Briggs’s African Blood Brotherhood and no doubt influenced its wholesale commitment to the recently emerged American Communist party. At the same time, he continued his criticism of white Communists and urged upon them the importance of international socialism of blacks and colonials.

While engaged in all these activities, he continued to write sonnets and remained committed to his literary career, a career that he in no way regarded as subservient or secondary to his career as a political journalist. On the Left in post-World War I America, political ideologies had not yet hardened to the point where artistic freedom and left-wing politics had become incompatible. In fact, McKay and others like him believed their allegiance to radical politics was simply an extension of their artistic concerns. In 1922, Harlem Shadows, McKay’s fourth book of poetry, appeared. It was an enlarged version of Spring in New Hampshire, from which McKay’s most militant racial protest poems and political verse had been omitted. He had grown ashamed of these omissions, and Harlem Shadows, with its inclusion of “If We Must Die” and other protest poems, pleased him immensely. Critics, especially black critics such as James Weldon Johnson and Walter White, received Harlem Shadows enthusiastically, and McKay found himself praised as a leading voice among the newer black poets.

Although he patterned his poetry upon the Elizabethan and Romantic models that had become the cliche of Victorian England, McKay, after 1914, slowly elaborated his own vision of the past and present condition of himself and his race. The persona who emerges from these World War I verses is a Romantic, pastoral poet who worships beauty and truth but is mired, like his race generally, in a society that has attempted to deny him not only fundamental social and political rights, but the basic fullness of life itself. In McKay’s American poetry he depicts blacks still struggling upward from slavery, which in Orlando Patterson’s illuminating definition was a kind of social, if not literal, death [Slavery as Social Death, 1982). McKay’s protest sonnets written between 1914 and 1922 are in fact impassioned descriptions of the lim-inal state blacks found themselves in for generations after Emancipation, caught between the old social death that was slavery and the new suppressed status of freedmen still powerfully linked to their slave forebears. In Page 572  |  Top of Articlethe poem “In Bondage” (in Spring in New Hampshire), McKay writes:

Somewhere I would be singing, far away.
But I am bound with you in your mean
O black men, simple slaves of ruthless
 slaves .

And again in “Outcast” (in Harlem Shadows), echoing John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1819), McKay laments the loss of his ancestral African culture and his assumption of Western ideals, for in the process,

Some vital thing has gone out of my heart,
And I must walk the way of life a ghost
Among the sons of earth, a thing apart;
For I was born, far from my native clime,
Under the white man’s menace, out of

In “Mulatto” (first published in Bookman [September 1925], later included in Wagner’s Les poetes negres), another key sonnet for understanding the roots of McKay’s alienation, anger, and rebellion in its American context, the poet literalizes his dilemma of double heritage by assuming the persona of a mulatto. The “mulatto” of the poem should also be interpreted as a symbol of the cultural and social condition of all American blacks for whom slavery in the New World meant the acquisition of and participation in a culture that continued to reject them as equals. In creating black slavery, the white culture of America also fathered the black American’s striving for social equality and full recognition of his rights as a part of the “American family.” Without such recognition there can be no resolution of racial conflict in America, because without it American blacks can never cease to hate those who, in effect, deny them the fullness of life, which in human terms includes the certainty of belonging to a body politic that recognizes your kinship and includes you in its legitimate social life. In “Mulatto,” McKay concludes:

Because I am my cruel father’s child,
My love of justice stirs me up to hate,
A warring Ishmaelite, unreconciled,
When falls the hour I shall not hesitate
Into my father’s heart to plunge the knife
To gain the utmost freedom that is life.

The late Jean Wagner was the first critic to analyze the unusually penetrating and courageous frankness of McKay’s discussion of black hatred of white injustices. In a late untitled sonnet found in his unpublished “Cycle Manuscript” at Yale, McKay exclaimed that “I stripped down harshly to the naked core/of hatred based on the essential wrong!” In “The White House” (in the Liberator [May 1922], later included in Selected Poems), he makes clear that it is “the potent poison” of white hate, the harsh exclusiveness of white society, that has aroused his own anger, which is at times almost uncontrollable—so white hot, so incandescent that “The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,/A chafing savage, down the decent street.” To balance such rage he must at “every hour” find “wisdom…To hold me to the letter of your law!” To those who protested that McKay expressed too much bitterness in his work, he replied:

The spirituals and the blues were not created out of sweet deceit. There is as much sublimated bitterness in them as there is humility, pathos and bewilderment. And if the Negro is a little bitter, the white man should be the last person in the world to accuse him of bitterness. For the feeling of bitterness is a natural part of the black man’s birthright as the feeling of superiority is of the white man’s. It matters not so much that one has had an experience of bitterness, but rather how one has developed out of it. To ask the Negro to render up his bitterness is asking him to part with his soul. For out of his bitterness he has bloomed and created his spirituals and blues and conserved his racial attributes—his humor and ripe laughter and particular rhythm of life.
{Passion of Claude McKay, pp. 134-135)

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In reviewing Harlem Shadows, Robert Littel of the New Republic pointed out that McKay’s “hospitality to echoes of poetry he has read” too often “obscured a direct sense of life and made rarer those lines of singular intensity” that revealed his “naked force of character” (12 July 1922, p. 196). Such criticism perhaps obscures another truth. McKay often used such echoes in fresh and often ironical ways to illuminate directly and intensely aspects of the psychology of the oppressed vis-à-vis his oppressors. By articulating so forcefully and directly not only naked hatred but also much subtler psychological effects that slavery had upon black slaves and white slave owners alike, McKay communicated in his sonnets aspects of American race relations that succeeding generations of scholars and writers still have trouble grasping or confronting. The objective of McKay’s quest as a poet was wholeness, as a man and as a member of a racial group long denied the opportunity to be truly free to develop their iull potential. Only as a child in Jamaica had he known the psychological freedom and unity with his community that he sought as an adult, and some of the best-realized verses in Harlem Shadows are those in which he evokes his pastoral vision of Jamaica: in “Flame-Heart,” “My Mother,” “Adolescence,” and “The Tropics in New York.”

Harlem Shadows received generally good reviews, but once again, he moved on shortly after the book appeared. In June 1922, McKay resigned from the Liberator. For the rest of the summer, he planned a trip to Moscow to attend the Fourth Congress of the Third International in November. Although nominally a Communist party member, he was not active enough in party affairs to be chosen an official delegate. Unable to raise enough funds through the special sale of Harlem Shadows—friends and admirers were asked to buy signed copies at a premium price—McKay in the late summer of 1922 sailed as a stoker on a merchant ship as far as England. From there he journeyed to Berlin and obtained a visa to the Soviet Union.

He arrived there in time to participate in the Fourth Congress as a special delegate-observer, despite the objections of the American party delegates, who wished to see him expelled. He ended up criticizing them severely because, he alleged, they still harbored common prejudices against blacks and did not understand the critical position of black laborers in America. His color, good looks, and happy smile won over the Moscow crowds, and the Moscow leadership subsequently sent him on a six-month tour of Moscow, Leningrad, and their environs. Through it all, however, he insisted he was primarily a poet, not a politician, and though he thoroughly enjoyed the wooing, he left the Soviet Union determined to resume an independent literary career. He had grown disillusioned with his British and American comrades, and he had begun to suspect that the dominance of the Soviet national party in the Third International meant the subservience of other national revolutionary movements to the Soviet Union’s national interest. While there, McKay had written for Soviet newspapers and journals a series of articles and short stories on the racial situation in the United States, which were collected into two pamphlet-sized books. One was an analysis of the black situation in the United States, Ne-gry v. Aznerike (The Negroes in America, 1923); the other was a slim volume of short stories entitled Sudom lincha (Trial by Lynching, 1925).

After leaving the Soviet Union in the spring of 1923, McKay lived and worked in Western Europe and North Africa until 1934. While abroad McKay turned to fiction. From 1923 until 1927, he struggled in France and Spain to produce a marketable novel. With the financial and artistic assistance of many friends, he managed to survive several illnesses—including syphilis, grippe, and high blood pressure—and to persevere in his apprenticeship in fiction. Louise Bryant, the widow of John Reed, persuaded him to engage William Aspenwall Bradley, the leading American literary agent in Paris, as his representative. Bradley secured him a contract with Harper …. Brothers that called for three novels and a collection of short stories. McKay responded by producing his first published novel, Home to Harlem, in 1928. It appeared in New York at the height of white publishing interest in blacks, received good Page 574  |  Top of Articlepublicity, and for a while made the local bestseller lists. It presented a story of marginal, working-class black migrants and their stark scrabble for love and a living in Harlem. Black readers were divided in their opinion of Home to Harlem. Some thought McKay was merely pandering in it to white enjoyment of black stereotypes. Others defended McKay’s story of the hedonistic, instinctually positive hero, Jake Brown, as simply a healthy assertion of the black man’s basic strength and vitality. Since his departure in 1922, a new generation of African American writers had emerged to give substance in literature to Alain Locke’s assertion in “The New Negro” that a “New Negro” had come forth whose “mind” had “slipped from under the tyranny of social intimidation and [was] shaking off the psychology of imitation and implied inferiority.” In the process, many had begun to assert empathically the positive aspects of black folk life in country and city. Langston Hughes was one such writer, and he in particular welcomed Claude McKay’s contribution from afar. Hughes insisted in a letter to McKay that Home to Harlem was “undoubtedly … the finest thing ‘we’ve’ done yet.” Not everyone in the black intellectual community agreed with him. McKay’s characters were rough, hard-drinking, and hard-living. In their everyday pursuits, many skated a thin line between legality and illegality. To W. E. B. Du Bois and many other reviewers, a novel in praise of such characters was simply reprehensible.

McKay wrote Home to Harlem in the tradition of the picaresque. Jake Brown is an idealized folk type, a black man who during World War I deserts his army labor unit in Brest, goes to London, and exists there as a stevedore for a few months. Well after the war, he ships as a stoker on a merchant ship back to New York and Harlem, where he has a series of loves and adventures while working as a cook on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Through Jake’s movement from episode to episode, McKay reveals aspects of black working-class existence as he himself experienced it as a solitary male in New York City between 1914 and 1919.

There are no children in Home to Harlem, no married couples, no ministers, and few professionals of any sort, with the exception of Ray, the Haitian intellectual who, as Jake’s fellow worker on the railroad, forms a friendship with him. Ray acts as McKay’s thinly disguised alter ego who comments periodically upon Jake and the conditions in which he lives. To Ray, Jake is a natural man who lives for the moment, happily meeting the daily challenges of an unfair world with natural wit, humor, courage, and intelligence. He cannot be beaten down but rolls like an unsinkable ship across America’s stormy ocean of racial strife and oppression. Jake is McKay’s triumphant primitive. He is only the best of a good lot in Home to Harlem. Those with whom he mingles share his essential virtues in lesser degrees. The gambler and loan shark, Billy Biasse,- Jake’s inept rival in love, Zeddy,- and the pathetic but self-reliant Gin-head Suzy—all are lovingly portrayed by McKay. In sharp contrast, only Ray—literate, lonely, and confused—suffers from self-doubt and self-consciousness. Home to Harlem was a deliberate insult to respectability, black and white, and a glorification of the staying power of the poor, the ignorant, and the dispossessed.

McKay continued his assault on black respectability in his second novel, Banjo: A Story Without a Plot (1929), in which he shifts and expands his locale to include a new, international set of black characters, a group of beached seamen, adrift in that fleshpot of international commerce, Marseilles’s vieux port (or the Ditch, as McKay’s characters call it). Once again, his hero is an archetypal black primitive, Lincoln Agrippa Daily, or “Banjo,” as he is called because of his mastery of that stereo-typically black instrument. Around Banjo there gather several West Indian and black American seamen, who like him are temporarily without a ship and living by their wits in the Ditch. They form a band and play for handouts and meals. In Marseilles are Africans from various French colonies, as well as a few black students from the French West Indies. Even more than Jake, Banjo is adrift upon the alien sea of Western civilization and enjoying it. As McKay remarks, he and those like him refuse to “disappear under the serried crush of trampling white feet.” They are a puzzle and a mystery, a challenge, Page 575  |  Top of Articlelike a “red rag to the mighty-bellowing, all-trampling civilized bull.” In Marseilles, Banjo meets Ray, the Haitian intellectual from Home to Harlem, who, like McKay, has fled the United States to become an expatriate writer in France. Together Ray and Banjo encounter Jake, who has become a seaman in order to support a wife and child.

This international melange of uprooted black men drinks, sings, dances, fights, and philanders its way through the Ditch, all the while discussing every possible aspect of the problems faced by blacks in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. McKay’s fundamental position is expressed through his archetypal “natural” man, Banjo, and his own fictional alter ego, Ray. Banjo lives the role, while Ray explains how blacks survive in a hostile white society that seeks to hold them literally in a ditch. McKay argues in both Home to Harlem and Banjo that blacks are a people in closer proximity to the soil, and hence to nature, than industrialized, urbanized, white Europeans. They are more natural, more spontaneous, less driven by greed, less hampered by sexual inhibitions and other neurotic complexes. And they possess, too, rich racial attributes of humor, rhythm, courage, and physical and psychological resiliency, out of which they fashioned for themselves New World cultures strong enough to see them through slavery. Whether consciously or unconsciously (and one suspects a bit of both), McKay was seizing upon traditional stereotypes and using them as positive images of black racial differentiation. Blacks emerged from slavery with rich legacies of music, stories, humor, and history. These attributes and legacies, McKay insisted, were not embodied in racial leaders and black social climbers, but in the common people and especially in the best of the common folk who, like Jake or Banjo, could fashion satisfying lives for themselves because they knew their own strengths, related to each other and their neighbors as fellow humans, and preserved a self respect nothing could destroy.

McKay believed black leaders everywhere had to build upon this already existing folk community. Only with nurturing roots deep sunk in their own experiences, values, and culture could blacks expand and develop economically, politically, and socially. In this regard, blacks, he believed, and especially African Americans, were no different from other ethnic groups. Like the Jews, the Italians, the Poles, and many others, they must become conscious of their inalienable rights as a group to act together for their own self-advancement. Thus, in Banjo Ray angrily advises a French West Indian student not to try to become a black Frenchman but to build from his island culture an identity he already has but refuses to acknowledge as legitimate and self-sufficient in its own right. Ray goes on to explain that if the student wishes to emulate whites, he should turn to the promoters of “the Irish cultural and social movement,” to the Russian writers who espoused the cause of the peasants before the Russian Revolution, and to Gandhi’s movement in India. He should also learn some of the languages of Africa and its cultures instead of feeling embarrassed and ashamed of them and the poor African laborers of the Marseilles dock.

Banjo was McKay’s last picaresque novel. Gingertown (1932), a collection of short stories, represented an effort to break new ground stylistically and thematically. Some of the Harlem stories in Gingertown told of characters very like those found in his novels, but in his Jamaican stories his whole tone changed to a lush pastoral mode that he sustained in his last novel, Banana Bottom, which appeared the next year. This novel, McKay’s most mature and artistically successful prose effort, was his attempt to find his way back home, to reintegrate himself imaginatively with the black community of his youth. McKay became eager to write about the Jamaica of his childhood after he settled in Tangier, Morocco, in 1930. For seven years he had lived the precarious life of the expatriate writer in Paris, Nice, Marseilles, and various other cities in France and Spain. He was forty in 1930 and felt the need to settle somewhere and establish a more stable existence. He needed a retreat, and he found it in Tangier. Morocco’s French colonial existence during the interwar years, with its blend of ethnic groups and strong West African influences, Page 576  |  Top of Articlereminded him of Jamaica. Now middle-aged and shaken, physically and emotionally, from all his experiences, he retreated imaginatively to Jamaica to record the community of his dreams, a black community strong upon its own foundations.

In Banana Bottom, the artistic soul who returns to Jamaica after years of education in England is a woman, Bita Plant. She is raped as a young girl by an insane mulatto fiddler of genius called Crazy-Bow,- afterward she is sent to England by sympathetic but misguided missionaries for a “proper” education. When she returns, they envision for her a marriage to a native minister. Together, the young couple might carry on the civilizing mission they themselves had dedicated their lives to achieving. None of this happens. Bita finds the ministerial student stuffy and boring. She is happy to rediscover for herself the quiet pleasures of her parents’ rural life, the excitement of country dances, and the temporarily beguiling enticements of a seductive but feckless local Romeo called Hopping Dick. The ministerial student is caught in flagrante delicto with a nanny goat. The white missionary and Bita’s father, a deacon in the church, drown while attempting to ford a flood-swollen stream as they return from a distant church meeting. For consolation Bita turns to Jubba, a black orphan boy of the hill country, raised by her parents in her absence, who has grown into a quiet, self-assured peasant farmer. He assumes control of the family farm after the death of Bita’s father.

As Bita’s story unfolds, McKay re-creates in rich, loving, and humorous detail the distant Jamaican hill country and the stable peasant culture of his youth. In Banjo, he writes that Ray’s efforts as an expatriate “to be educated black and his instinctive self was something of a big job to put over.” In Banana Bottom, he accomplishes this task for himself by returning to the pastoral innocence of youth and by choosing as his main character a woman who could do what the character Ray in Home to Harlem and Banjo could never do: reconcile through marriage her educated self with her peasant origins in a black community that had created for itself a way of life free from white missionary efforts to mold it wholly in Western patterns of morality and behavior.

In reality, of course, matters were more complicated, both for himself and for Jamaica. Though Banana Bottom received fair reviews, it appeared in 1933 at the height of the Depression and sales were dismal. Gingertown had also sold poorly. McKay found himself suddenly isolated, penniless, and without any prospects in Tangier. With assistance from friends, he managed to return to New York City early in 1934. For the remainder of the decade he struggled hard to continue his literary career and to regain the limited financial success that had briefly been his after Home to Harlem and Banjo. Despite periods of utter poverty, between 1934 and 1940, he managed to produce a memoir, A Long Way from Home (1937) and a study, Harlem, Negro Metropolis (1940). Both volumes had only modest sales and received mixed reviews. To support himself, McKay appealed to foundations and wrote numerous articles on Harlem’s labor scene and grass-roots social movements for a variety of newspapers and magazines. He also worked for the New York Federal Writers Project (FWP). The FWP both saved him financially and enabled him to collect the large body of information about Harlem folk life and movements that he used in his articles and in Harlem, Negro Metropolis.

The FWP also involved him deeply in the political disputes in which it had been mired from its inception. McKay had returned from Europe disillusioned with the course of the Bolshevik Revolution and disinclined to join its Trotsky-ist opposition or any other political movement. As early as 1925, he had predicted the course of Stalinist tyranny and had written Eastman of his disgust with revolutionary parties in the other countries that were willing to follow obediently Moscow’s ideological line. He had turned to fiction and ceased political agitation. Once back in Harlem, however, he began to argue that African Americans should not join the American Communist party, nor should they ally themselves with it. He considered the party a tool of Soviet foreign policy. Blacks had enough trouble, he pointed out, without identifying themselves with alien national interests Page 577  |  Top of Articleand goals. He also opposed the underhanded tactics used by the Communist party in the FWP to silence its critics, and he warned American writers that Stalinist policies in literature had led to the death of all free expression in the Soviet Union.

At the same time, McKay remained basically a socialist and a black populist, a free spirit who severely criticized the established black leadership in America. Group improvement, and not integration and the acquisition of legal rights alone, should be the immediate goal of African American leadership, he insisted. Black communities such as Harlem, he believed, remained essentially leaderless because African Americans, alone among all ethnic groups, hated and rejected their communities because they identified them with white-imposed segregation. Segregation was a policy, McKay believed, that should be abolished.

But in the meantime, he emphasized, African Americans had to embrace their communities, recognize the legitimate aspirations of their grass-roots labor and religious movements, and build upon the yearnings of their own people for a better life and a real community with labor, business, and social institutions capable of cleansing “the Augean stables” in which they lived. After all, McKay reasoned with admirable prescience, the acquisition of equal civil rights and the abolition of all legal segregation would not mean the disappearance of “the Negro” as an ethnic group in America. African Americans must not wait but must act decisively to build for themselves within their own communities the infrastructure of civic, business, labor, and social institutions common to every community in America. Otherwise, unable to integrate as a whole into American life, they would remain a permanently backward, crime-ridden, and unhealthy sore upon the American body politic. African American leaders, McKay passionately declared, must cease to evade their community responsibilities by using white racism as a permanent excuse for all black ills. The black masses were eager for improvement but lacked the leadership they needed.

McKay’s harsh critique won him few friends. A. Phillip Randolph encouraged him; Zora Neale Hurston admired his frankness; and James Weldon Johnson never deserted him. But McKay was viewed by most black leaders as a harping outsider. Nevertheless, his criticism poured forth in the pages of the New Leader, the Nation, the New York Amsterdam News, the Jewish Frontier, and other journals.

Finally, however, illness, poverty, and isolation led McKay to enter the Roman Catholic church. In 1944 he moved to Chicago, joined the church, and worked, between bouts of illness, for Bishop Bernard J. Sheil’s Catholic Youth Organization until his death in 1948. McKay’s conversion surprised most of his friends because he had been an agnostic all his life. However, he was ill, he had found no place within international socialism he could accept, and he likewise had found no security within the African American community or in the United States generally. He needed solace and a cessation of spiritual strife. He sought them in the church and in memory. McKay had envisioned for the black community, as he envisioned for himself, psychological and spiritual freedom to be themselves. Only then could they be proud black citizens of their country and the world. He had found such freedom only in the Jamaican hill country of his youth, and in the last months of his life, it was there he returned by composing a final memoir of his youth, My Green Hills of Jamaica.

Selected Bibliography



Home to Harlem. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1928.

Banjo: A Story Without a Plot. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1929.

Banana Bottom. New York: Harper & Brother, 1933.

Harlem Glory: A Fragment of Aframerican Life. Chicago: Kerr, 1990.


Constab Ballads. London: Watts & Co., 1912.

Songs from Jamaica. London: Augener, 1912. (Six dialect poems set to music by Walter Jekyll.)

Page 578  |  Top of Article

Songs of famaica. Kingstown, famaica: Aston W. Gardner, 1912.

Spring in New Hampshire and Other Poems. London: Grant Richards, 1920.

Harlem Shadows. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1922.


Sudom lincha. Moscow: Ogonek, 1925. Translated as Trial by Lynching: Stories About Negro Life in North America by Robert J. Winter. Edited by Alan L. McLeod. Mysore, India, 1979.

Gingertown. New York: Harper …. Brothers, 1932.


A Long Way from Home. New York: Lee Furnam, 1937.

My Green Hills of Jamaica and Five famaican Short Stories. Edited by Mervyn Morris. Kingstown and Port of Spain, Jamaica: Heinemann Educational Books, 1979.


Negry v Amerike. Translated into Russian by P. Okhri-menko. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe, 1923. Translated as The Negroes in America by Robert J. Winter. Edited by Alan L. McLeod. Port Washington, N.Y: Kennikat Press, 1979.

Harlem: Negro Metropolis. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1940.


Selected Poems of Claude McKay. New York: Bookman Associates, 1953.

The Dialect Poems of Claude McKay. Vol. 1, Songs of famaica. Vol. 2, Constab Ballads. Freeport, N.Y: Books for Libraries, 2P72.

The Passion of Claude McKay: Selected Poetry and Prose, 1912-1948. Edited by Wayne F. Cooper. New York: Schocken Books, 1973.


The Claude McKay Papers are in the James Weldon Johnson Collection of Negro Literature and Art, American Literature Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.



Binder, Wolfgang. “A Black Icon in the Flesh: The Afro-American Writer in Europe, the Case of Claude McKay.” In L’Amerique et l’Europe: Realites et representations. Edited by Neil Larry Shumsky. Aix-en-Provence: University of Provence, 1985. Pp 137-51.

Blary, Liliane, et al. “Claude McKay and Black Nationalist Ideologies (1934-1948).” In Myth and Ideology in American Culture. Edited by Regis Durand. Lille: Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Nord-Americaines et Canadiennes, Universite de Lille, 1976.

Breitinger, Eckhard. “In Search of an Audience: In Search of the Self: Exile as a Condition for the Works of Claude McKay.” In The Commonwealth Writer Overseas: Themes of Exile and Expatriation. Edited by Alastair Niven. Bruxelles: M. Didier, 1976.

Chauhan, P. S. “Rereading Claude McKay.” CLA fournal 34, no. 1:68-80 (September 1990).

Chin, Timothy S. “‘Buller’ and ‘Battymen’: Contesting Homophobia in Black Popular Culture and Contemporary Caribbean Literature.” Callaloo 20, no. 1: 127-41 (Winter 1997).

Condit, John Hillyer. “An Urge toward Wholeness: Claude McKay and His Sonnets.” CLA Journal 22: 350-64 (1979).

Dorris, Ronald. “Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem: A Social Commentary.” The McNeese Review 29:5362 (1982-1983).

—— “Rhythm in Claude McKay’s ‘Harlem Dancer.’ “In This Is How We Flow’: Rhythm in Black Cultures. Edited by Angela M. S. Nelson. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

Fabre, Michel. “Aesthetics and Ideology in Banjo.” In Myth and Ideology in American Culture. Edited by Regis Durand. Lille: Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Nord-Americaines et Canadiennes, Universite de Lille, 1976.

Greenberg, Robert M. “Idealism and Realism in the Fiction of Claude McKay.” CLA fournal 24, no. 3:23761 (March 1981).

Griffin, Barbara J. “Claude McKay: The Evolution of a Conservative.” CLA fournal 36, no. 2:157-70 (December 1992).

w“The Last Word: Claude McKay’s Unpublished ‘Cycle Manuscript.’ “Melus 21:41-49 (March 1, 1996).

Hamafian, Leo. “D. H. Lawrence ancfBiack Writers” fournal of Modern Literature 16, no. 4:579-96 (Spring 1990).

Keller, James R. “‘A Chafing Savage, Down the Decent Street’: The Politics of Compromise in Claude McKay’s Protest Sonnets.” African-American Review 28, no. 3:447-56 (Fall 1994).

LeSeur, Geta. “Claude McKay’s Romanticism.” CLA fournal 32, no. 3:296-308 (March 1989).

—— “Claude McKay’s Marxism.” In The Harlem Renaissance: Revaluations. Edited by Amritjit Singh etal. New York: Garland, 1989.

Lively, Adam. “Continuity and Radicalism in American Black Nationalist Thought, 1914-1929.” fournal of American Studies 18, no. 2:207-35 (August 1984).

Lueth, Elmer. “The Scope of Black Life in Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem.” Obsidian II: Black Literature in Review 5, no. 3:43-52 (Winter 1990).

McLeod, A. L. “Memory and the Edenic Myth: Claude McKay’s Green Hills of Jamaica.” In Individual and Community in Commonwealth Literature. Edited by Daniel Massa. Msida: University of Malta Press, 1979.

—— ed. “Claude McKay as Historical Witness.” In Subjects Worthy of Fame: Essays on Commonwealth Page 579  |  Top of ArticleLiterature in Honour of H. H. Anniah Gowda. Edited by A. L. McLeod. New Delhi: Sterling, 1989.

Claude McKay Claude McKay: Centennial Studies. New Delhi: Sterling, 1992.

McLeod, Marian B. “Claude McKay’s Russian Interpretation: The Negroes in America.” CLA Journal 23: 336-51 (1980).

Miller, James A. “African-American Writing of the 1930s: A Prologue.” In Radical Revisions: Rereading 1930s Culture. Edited by Bill Mullen and Sherry Lee Linkon. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996.

Ojo-Ade, Femi. “McKay’s Tragic Confusion: An African’s Comments on Tyrone Tillery’s Claude McKay.” Literary Griot: International Journal of Black Expressive Cultural Studies 6, no. 2:54-59. (Fall 1994).

—— “Claude McKay: The Tragic Solitude of an Exiled Son of Africa.” In Of Dreams Deferred, Dead or Alive: African Perspectives on African American Writers. Edited by Femi Ojo-Ade. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1996.

Pedersen, Carl. “Review of Claude McKay: Rebel Sojourner in the Harlem Renaissance.” Research in African Literatures, June 22, 1997. Pp 198-99.

Roberts, Kimberly. “The Clothes Make the Woman: The Symbolics of Prostitution in Nella Larsen’s Quicksand and Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 16, no. 1:10730 (Spring 1997).

Russ, Robert A. “‘There’s No Place Like Home’: The Carnival of Black Life in Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem.” In Harlem Renaissance Re-examined: A Revised and Expanded Edition. Edited by Victor A. Kramer and Robert A. Russ. Troy, N.Y.: The Whits-ton Publishing Co., 1997.

Smith, Robert P., Jr. “Rereading Banjo: Claude McKay and the French Connection.” CLA Journal 30, no. 1:46-58 (September 1986).

Spencer, Suzette A. “Swerving at a Different Angle and Flying in the Face of Tradition: Excavating the Ho-moerotic Subtext in Home to Harlem.” CLA Journal 42, no. 2:164-93 (December 1998).

Thomas, H. Nigel. “Claude McKay’s Banana Bottom: A Black Response to Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century White Discourse on the Meaning of Black Reality.” In Nationalism vs. Internationalism: (Inter) National Dimensions of Literatures in English. Edited by Wolfgang Zach and Ken L. Goodwin. Tubingen, Germany: Stauffenburg, 1996.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX1387200048