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By Claude McKay

Claude McKay (1889–1948) used to be the most prolific and complicated African American writers of the early 20th century. A Jamaican-born writer of poetry, brief tales, novels, and nonfiction, McKay has frequently been linked to the “New Negro” or Harlem Renaissance, a move of African American paintings, tradition, and intellectualism among global battle I and the nice melancholy. yet his dating to the move used to be advanced. actually absent from Harlem in the course of that interval, he committed such a lot of his time to touring via Europe, Russia, and Africa through the Twenties and Thirties. His lively participation in Communist teams and the novel Left additionally inspired definite evaluations on race and sophistication that strained his dating to the Harlem Renaissance and its black intelligentsia. In his 1937 autobiography, A good distance from Home, McKay explains what it skill to be a black “rebel sojourner” and offers one of many first unflattering, but informative, exposés of the Harlem Renaissance. Reprinted right here with a severe advent by means of Gene Andrew Jarrett, this e-book will problem readers to reconsider McKay’s articulation of id, paintings, race, and politics and situate those subject matters when it comes to his oeuvre and his literary contemporaries among the realm wars.

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Extra resources for A Long Way from Home (Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the Americas)

Example text

McKay did not readily echo Trotsky’s loaded criticism but admitted that, in contrast to the radical bloc, African Americans lacked the proper political vision, infrastructure, and goals intrinsic to the aggregation of political resources (as opposed to the segregation of its racial community). 20 “I Happen Not to Be of It”: The Harlem Renaissance McKay blamed the lack of black political aggregation, among other things, on the failure of black leadership. At the root of this problem was a social, economic, cultural, and intellectual chasm between the black masses and the intelligentsia during the Harlem Renaissance.

The next day I arrived in New York, and as soon as I got off the train I telephoned to the editor at his office. He invited me to his house that evening. Frank Harris’s friendly letter, warm with enthusiasm for my poetry, and inviting me to visit him, was the kind of thing that might turn the head of a young writer bitten by the bug of ambition, and sweep him off his feet. But when a fellow is intoxicated with poetry and is yet able to keep a sober head and steady feet to swing a tray among impatient crowds of passengers in a rocking train, he ought to be able to hold himself in under any other excitement.

When my turn came, I told the judge that my registration card was mislaid somewhere in New York, but that I was working on the railroad, had arrived in Pittsburgh only the day before, and should be working at that hour. I said that nearly every day I was serving soldiers and that my being absent from the dining car that morning would cripple the service, because I was the chief waiter and we were running short of a full crew. To my surprise, as soon as I had finished, the judge asked me if I were born in Jamaica.

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