McKay, Claude

McKay, Claude məkāˈ [key], 1889–1948, American poet and novelist, b. Jamaica as Festus Claudius McKay, studied at Tuskegee and the Univ. of Kansas. A major figure of the Harlem Renaissance, McKay is best remembered for his poems treating racial themes. His works include the volumes of poetry Spring in New Hampshire (1920) and Harlem Shadows (1922); and the novels Home to Harlem (1927), Banjo (1929), and Banana Bottom (1933). Two more novels were discovered in the early 21st cent., Amiable with Big Teeth (2017), a portrait of 1930s Harlem that centers on efforts to create support for liberating Ethiopia, and Romance in Marseille (2020), which deals with questions of physical disability, international politics, and gay sexuality and gender. For years McKay was involved in radical political activities, but he became increasingly disillusioned, and in 1944 he converted to Roman Catholicism.

See his autobiography, A Long Way from Home (1937).

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