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By Claude McKay

Claude McKay (1889–1948) used to be some of 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 usually been linked to the “New Negro” or Harlem Renaissance, a circulate of African American paintings, tradition, and intellectualism among global warfare I and the good melancholy. yet his courting to the circulate was once complicated. 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 throughout the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties. His energetic participation in Communist teams and the unconventional Left additionally inspired convinced evaluations on race and sophistication that strained his dating to the Harlem Renaissance and its black intelligentsia. In his 1937 autobiography, A good way 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 the following with a serious creation via Gene Andrew Jarrett, this booklet will problem readers to reconsider McKay’s articulation of id, artwork, race, and politics and situate those subject matters by way of his oeuvre and his literary contemporaries among the realm wars.

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Sample text

It was seven years since I had arrived in the States from Jamaica, leaving behind me a local reputation as a poet. I came to complete my education. But after a few years of study at the Kansas State College I was gripped by the lust to wander and wonder. The spirit of the vagabond, the demon of some poets, had got hold of me. I quit college. I had no desire to return home. What I had previously done was done. But I still cherished the urge to creative expression. I desired to achieve something new, something in the spirit and accent of America.

Our Lord and Master! That is the secret of the difference between the peoples of Africa and of Asia and the people of Europe. ” And, strangely to me, Frank Harris began preaching Jesus. Which seemed so incongruous with his boulevardier dress and manner. He did it beautifully, but unconvincingly. There was something about the man’s personality, so pugnacious (a fine pugnaciousness that I admired when he expatiated upon his profane experiences and because he was physically small and rebellious), that made him appear a little ridiculous preaching the self-denialism of Jesus.

Writing from the same historical vantage point as McKay, Locke acknowledged the failures of the Harlem Renaissance but still lamented the rise and fall of a writer he 000 fm (i-xl) 12/5/06 2:34 PM Page xxxiii introduction • x x x i i i had once anointed as a pioneering “youth” of the Harlem Renaissance. Locke was neither surprised by the symbolism of the title A Long Way from Home nor impressed by the story itself. McKay had become “a bad boy who admits he ought to go to school and then plays truant.

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