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By Claude McKay

Claude McKay (1889–1948) was once 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 move of African American artwork, tradition, and intellectualism among global warfare I and the nice melancholy. yet his dating to the flow used to be complicated. actually absent from Harlem in the course of that interval, he dedicated such a lot of his time to touring via Europe, Russia, and Africa throughout the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties. His lively participation in Communist teams and the unconventional Left additionally inspired sure critiques on race and sophistication that strained his courting to the Harlem Renaissance and its black intelligentsia. In his 1937 autobiography, A good way from Home, McKay explains what it capacity to be a black “rebel sojourner” and provides one of many first unflattering, but informative, exposés of the Harlem Renaissance. Reprinted the following with a serious advent by means of 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 area wars.

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

Sample text

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. ”26 Nothing less than a tit for tat, Locke’s tone in “Spiritual Truancy” was obviously intended to match McKay’s in A Long Way from Home. 27 Locke was not alone in indicting McKay’s retreat from the responsibility of racial leadership imposed on successful black writers. When McKay returned to Harlem in 1921 as a celebrity, his loss of “the rare feeling of vagabond feeding upon secret music singing” precipitated his disenchantment with politics.

Some of the local prisoners had their papers at home. Relatives, learning of their plight, brought them the papers and they were discharged. But all the non-residents were held. Three of us, two colored, one white, were put into a cell which was actually a water closet with an oldfashioned fetid hole. It was stinking, suffocating. I tried to overcome the stench by breathing through my mind all the fragrant verse I could find in the range of my memory. At last dawn came, bringing some relief. At nine o’clock we were marched to the court, a motley gang of men, bums, vagrants, pimps, and honest fellows, all caught in the same net.

Maxwell, New Negro, Old Left, 77–91. So anxious was McKay over his exact political role that in a political forum he quibbled over the exact translation of his words from English to Russian. For this episode, see chapter 16 of A Long Way from Home. In 1977, Harper and Row released the second half of Black Boy as American Hunger. For more information, see chapters 16 and 29 of A Long Way from Home. See chapter 21 of A Long Way from Home in which McKay states that he relishes lived experience as a means of authentication literary expression.

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