Claude McKay: a black poet's struggle for identity by Tyrone Tillery

By Tyrone Tillery

The Twenties witnessed a unprecedented flowering of literary and inventive creativity between African american citizens. Critics hailed the emergence of a "New Negro," who took delight within the black race and its African background, and whose writings uncovered and attacked discrimination, explored black folks tradition, and strove to create a special African-American literature. but for all its energy, the cultural move most sensible referred to as the Harlem Renaissance was once fraught with tensions: among the perfect of Africa and the truth of the United States; among the trap of a romanticized rural previous and the calls for of an alien city current; among the necessity to confirm the distinctiveness of black tradition and the will to accomplish attractiveness via the bulk white tradition. probably greater than the other Harlem Renaissance determine, Claude McKay embodied those contradictory impulses.

The paradox of Claude McKay can't be diminished to any uncomplicated formulation. He was once instantaneously an enfant bad who took satisfaction within the Negro's cultural historical past and an highbrow who strove for recognition in predominantly white circles. He was once an intensive reason on reworking his followed county who however left the USA quickly for the Soviet Union. but those tensions, as this booklet strives to teach, can't easily be ascribed to private or mental difficulties; eventually, they have been rooted within the ambiguous social and cultural place of the black artist and political radical of the early 20th century.

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42 McKay's relationship with Walter Jekyll constituted one of the more complex chapters in his life. 43 Nothing in McKay's correspondence or his writings provides evidence for this idea, but it must be admitted that McKay himself was bisexual. 44 It is entirely possible that McKay's feelings for Jekyll were simply those of a student for an admired mentor. Throughout his life McKay would be attracted to strong men, such as Max Eastman of the Liberator, Frank Harris, editor of Pearson's Magazine, and Bishop Henry Sheil of the Catholic church.

Further, throughout his life, McKay's best friends would resemble Jekyll: they would be white, somewhat radical, economically well off, but usually living bohemian or quasi-bohemian lives. McKay also appears to have internalized much of Jekyll's philosophical outlook about the world. On numerous occasions Jekyll expressed his dislike for modernism and industrialism. He was particularly critical of the United States, whose rapid industrialization threatened the equilibrium of the world. 47 Of equal importance in McKay's intellectual and social development was contact with British influence in Jamaica.

Washington's secretary, Emmett Scott, ordered an inquiry into McKay's accusations. John Whittaker, a trustee at the school, headed the investigation and concluded that, while McKay was considered a serious student with a "keen and observant eye," he had a tendency to be too critical. 5 The following poem, written in memory of Booker T.  Washington I vividly recall the noon-day hour You walked into the wide and well-filled hall: We rose and sang, at the conductor's call.  A splendid tower of strength, as would a gardener on the flower Nursed tenderly, you gazed upon us all Assembled there, a serried, sable wall Fast mortared by your subtle fact and power.

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