Trans4mind Home Page
~ Making the Human Heart Visible ~

Looking for a better life?

Our online, interactive video workshops present the most effective methods of holistic personal development, combined with personal support from expert life coaches.

Explore Article Library


The Romantic Spirit of the Harlem Renaissance: Claude McKay

By Mary Arnold

Claude McKay (1890-1948) was born in Jamaica to "relatively prosperous peasants" (Hathaway 489). In his youth he "studied classical and British literary figures and philosophers as well as science and theology" (Hathaway 489). McKay's earliest poetry was written in traditional English forms, but later he was encouraged by his mentor Walter Jekyll to write "dialect poetry rooted in the island's folk culture" (Hathaway 489). His first two volumes of poetry, Songs of Jamaica (1912) and Constab Ballads (1912), are primarily written in dialect. McKay immigrated to the United States in the fall of 1912, and after studying agriculture at Tuskegee Institute and Kansas State College, he moved to New York City in 1914 (Hathaway 490).

In New York, McKay became "increasingly involved with political and literary radicals" (Hathaway 490). His third volume of poetry, Spring in New Hampshire (1920), reflects his changing political stance; his previous use of dialect is gone, and the poems are divided between commentary of race relations in America and nostalgic images of life in Jamaica (Hathaway 490). Dissatisfied with American leftist efforts to combat racism, McKay escaped to the Soviet Union in 1922 and spent six months traveling throughout the country, attending Communist symposiums and lecturing on art and politics (Hathaway 490). While in Russia, McKay "republished a series of articles he had written for the Soviet press" under the title Negroes in America (1923), which delivers a "Marxist interpretation of the history of African Americans" (Hathaway 490).

In 1928, when McKay was recuperating from illness in France, he published his first novel, Home to Harlem, which is his most widely read work. Even though the novel describes the lower class culture of Harlem, rather than middle class values, Home to Harlem is inherently propagandistic. The central theme of the novel is the internal conflict undergone by an educated, intelligent African American (Stoff 133). Ray, through his friendship with Jack, the 'natural, instinctive man', realizes he has "been robbed by his 'white' education of the ability to act freely and impulsively" (Stoff 133).

According to Stoff's interpretation of McKay's work, "only the instinctive primitive can survive happily in white civilization, its dehumanizing tendencies are irrelevant to his innately free existence" (Stoff 134). While McKay's politics and philosophy are at odds with most of the Renaissance elders, he still uses his art for propaganda purposes, in this case to condemn the African American intellectuals who have traded their own culture for the middle class values of white America. In his last novel Banana Bottom (1933), McKay offers a Jamaican heroine whom is adopted by white missionaries (Stoff 142). Unlike Ray, Bita Plant, "who rejects the civilized value system but not her intellect, can move easily from one world to another without impairing either instinct or intellect" (Stoff 142).

Like the characters in his novels, McKay himself was "forever seeking fulfillment of his desires to escape color-consciousness and recapture lost innocence" (Stoff 146). McKay, in his later life, stated that "As a child, I was never interested in different kinds of races or tribes. People were just people to me" (Stoff 128). It was in America that he became aware of his race consciousness through bigotry and discrimination. McKay, for the rest of his life, strove to transcend racial boundaries, but ultimately failed. Many other Renaissance writers, such as Jessie Fauset, would also explore racial boundaries.

Bibliography

Hathaway, Heather. "Claude McKay." The Oxford Companion to African American Literature. Eds. William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. 489-90.

Stoff, Michael B. "Claude McKay and the Cult of Primitivism." The Harlem Renaissance Remembered. Ed. Arna Bontemps. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1972. 126-146.

About The Author

Mary Arnold holds a B.A. in literature and history. She is an author on Writing.Com which is located at http://www.Writing.Com/ and is accessible by anyone.

Her writing portfolio may be viewed at http://www.Writing.com/authors/ja77521


AND EXPLORE...

Addictions
Astrology
Careers & Employment
Communication
Creativity
Dating
Depression
Diabetes
Diets
Divorce
Education
Environment
Ethics
Exercise
Family
Goal-Setting
Grief & Loss
Happiness
Health
Kids & Teens
Leadership
Love
Marriage
Meditation
Nutrition
Organizing
Parenting
Psychology
Public Speaking
Relationships
Schools
Self Help
Self Improvement & Motivation
Sexual Relations
Spirituality
Stress Management
Travel and Leisure
Women
Writing


From our extensive site, you'll find good info on many topics using this search:

Support your personal development with these popular and effective hypnosis downloads...

  • Public Speaking Fear ~ Banish speaking anxiety and nerves with hypnosis.
  • Motivate Yourself to Exercise ~ Build a powerful exercise habit that you can't break.
  • Get Rid of Fear & Anxiety ~ Stop worry and apprehension wrecking your life.
  • Self Esteem ~ Break the negative trance of low self esteem and give yourself a chance in life.
  • Create Your Own Reality ~ Use the power of your unconscious mind to transform your life.
  • Deeper Self Respect ~ Use hypnosis to connect with your true inner worth.
  • Detach From Fear ~ Tune out nervousness and anxiety with hypnosis.
  • Improving Concentration and Focus ~ Learn how to discipline, direct and command your mind to improve your performance.
  • Exercise Motivation ~ Give you powerful keys to getting back on track with your exercise - and staying there.
  • Overcoming Shyness ~ Provides an invisible security blanket allowing you to develop social ease and overcome shyness.
  • Quick Confidence Booster ~ An audio hypnosis session that's specifically designed to get you (quickly!) back on track.
  • Stop Negative Thoughts ~ Learn powerful hypnotic techniques to stop negative thoughts before they start.
  • Overcoming Procrastination ~ Let hypnosis help you get on with what you need to do, when you need to do it. Let nothing hold you back.
  • Think Thin ~ Use hypnosis to re-train your brain and lose weight naturally... that's how to get and stay slim.
  • Fall Asleep Fast ~ Relearn how to fall asleep fast and enjoy a good night's sleep.
  • The Next Level ~ Designed to radically boost your performance in any field. It's based on a technique used by top athletes and other successful people to help them make a big stride forward.
This is our selection of favorites, but there's a session for every need! Choose from over 800 Hypnosis Downloads...
Search now on an issue that interests or concerns you...
 
Get a free Hypnosis Download at Facebook
Copyright © 1997-2016 Trans4mind Ltd