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Claude McKay
(September 15, 1890 - May 22, 1948) Jamaica - U.S.A.

Claude McKay

Author

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Festus Claudius McKay was born into a poor family in Sunny Ville (Clarendon Parish), Jamaica. His early interest in Jamaican folk tales translated into a volume of poetry that earned him a prize from the Jamaican Institute of Art. The prize money he eraned enabled him to emigrate in the U.S. in 1912, and to study agriculture at the Tuskagee Institute and Kansas State University. In 1914 McKay went to New York, where he wrote for the avante-garde politics and art magazine The Liberator. His 1919 piece, If We Must Die, urged blacks to fight oppression or to die with dignity. He soon became a revered figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

Claude McKayHis books include Songs of Jamaica (1912), and Harlem Shadows (1922) poems; and the virile novels, Home to Harlem (1928), Banjo (1929), and Banana Bottom (1933). Gingertown (1932) collects short stories. His novels have sometimes been criticizes for emphasizing the primitive and voluptuous aspects of the black life dwelt upon by Van Vechten. A Long Way from Home (1937) is his autobiography. Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940) is a sociological study.

McKay's private life is just scarcely traceable and known, though he did not hide he had sexual relationships with both women and men. Some scholars speculate he may have had affairs with Waldo Frank and Edward Arlington Robinson, other claim that when he was in Paris McKay had a sexual relationship with the Canadian writer John Galassco. In 1940 McKay became an American citizen. Two years later he converted to Catholicism and worked with a Catholic youth organization until his death in Chicago.

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