The Life and Times of Claude McKay Essay

2788 Words 12 Pages
The life and Writings of Claude McKay

Introduction
     Every literary period can be defined by a group of writers. For the Harlem Renaissance, which was an extraordinary eruption of creativity among Black Americans in all fields of art, Claude McKay was the leader. Claude McKay was a major asset to the Harlem Renaissance with his contributions of such great pieces of writings such as “If We Must Die” and “The Lynching.” McKay wrote in many different styles. His work which vary from “dialect verse celebrating peasant life in Jamaica, to militant poems challenging white authority in the United States, to philosophically ambitious novels about the effort of blacks to cope in western society” (“Claude McKay” 1375)
…show more content…
These two pieces of writing were published by Walter Jekyll, a publisher who encouraged McKay to write poetry rooted in Jamaican folk culture and with Jamaican Dialect. These pieces of writing differed from the traditional form of writing he learned in his schooling, but gave McKay his first piece of recognition. These two pieces of writing were so successful that they allowed McKay to be the first black writer to receive the medal from the Jamaican institute of Arts and Sciences. McKay used the money that he received from this award to go to America to study agriculture (Masiello 245).
McKay came to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to study agriculture but left within two months. He transferred to Kansas State and stayed there until 1914 when he lost interest in the field of agriculture and returned to his writing (Masiello 245). McKay then had a few years with little success, this was when he initially moved to Harlem. In 1914, he married Eulalie Imelda Edwards, the marriage ended within six months (Ali 201). From 1914 to 1919, McKay was not very successful as a writer, and only had his work published under the pseudonym Eli Edwards (“Claude McKay” 1375). He was also forced to work medial jobs such as a dining-car waiter on the Pennsylvania Railroad. These hard times later rendered the novel Home to Harlem (Hathaway 290).
McKay’s situation soon improved;