McKay, Claude(məkā`), 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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McKay, Claude (b. Festus Claudius McKay)(1889–1948) writer, poet; born in Sunny Ville, Jamaica. He had already published two volumes in Jamaican dialect before he came to the U.S.A. to study at Tuskegee Institute, Ala. (1912) and Kansas State (1912–14). He moved to New York City, began to publish his poems under the pen name "Eli Edwards," and held several jobs before he went to London (1919–20) where he briefly worked for a communist newspaper. He returned to New York City and published his major work, Harlem Shadows (1922). By this time he was having an influence on the "Harlem Renaissance" and was also widely respected abroad. He lived abroad (1922–34), returned to New York in poor health, but continued to travel and write until the end. In addition to his poetry, his prolific output included novels such as Home to Harlem (1928), short stories (as in the collection Gingertown, 1932), an autobiography, A Long Way from Home (1937), and the sociological study, Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.