Claude Mckay & Jean Toomer

Topics: Harlem Renaissance, African American, Black people Pages: 2 (704 words) Published: September 13, 2005
Claude McKay was born on September 15th 1890, in the West Indian island of Jamaica. He was the youngest of eleven children. At the age of ten, he wrote a rhyme of acrostic for an elementary-school gala. He then changed his style and mixed West Indian folk songs with church hymns. At the age of seventeen he met a gentlemen named Walter Jekyll, who encouraged him to write in his native dialect. Jekyll introduced him to a new world of literature. McKay soon left Jamaica and would never return to his homeland. In 1912, only 23 years old, Jekyll paid his way to the United Sates to study agriculture at Tuskegee Institute. Before leaving Jamaica, McKay had gotten a reputation as a poet. He had produced two volumes of dialect poetry, Song of Jamaica and Constab Ballads. His work is said to always echo both the British colony's musical dialect and the sharp anger of its subject race. McKay moved to Harlem, New York in 1914, during a very discriminating time. His first American poem appeared in 1917. Of all the Renaissance writers, he was one of the first to express the spirit of the New Negro. By 1921, McKay had become the associate editor of a magazine called, The Liberator, a socialist magazine of art and literature. In 1922, Harcourt, Brace and Company published a collection of seven poems called, Harlem Shadows. This made him receive the status of being the first significant black poet. Even though he was considered an African-American icon, McKay said he still considered himself an "alien guest." His accurate view of Harlem night life pleased many white readers of the twenties and disappointed a few middle-class Negroes. They felt that too much emphasis on the Negro lower class would damage their fight for civil rights and delay their battle for liberty. McKay was not the only writer of the Negro Renaissance to upset respectable Negro society. One of the chief results of the Negro Renaissance was to force the Negro middle class to reevaluate their relationship to...
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