Claude McKay


Claude McKay, born Festus Claudius McKay in Sunny Ville, Jamaica in 1889, was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a prominent literary movement of the 1920s. His work ranged from vernacular verse celebrating peasant life in Jamaica to poems that protested racial and economic inequities. His philosophically ambitious fiction, including tales of Black life in both Jamaica and America, addresses instinctual/intellectual duality, which McKay found central to the Black individual’s efforts to cope in a racist society. He is the author of The Passion of Claude McKay: Selected Poetry and Prose (1973), The Dialectic Poetry of Claude McKay (1972), Selected Poems (1953), Harlem Shadows (1922), Constab Ballads (1912), and Songs of Jamaica (1912), among many other books of poetry and prose. McKay has been recognized for his intense commitment to expressing the challenges faced by Black Americans and admired for devoting his art and life to social protest, and his audience continues to expand. Source 

The White City

I will not toy with it nor bend an inch. 

Deep in the secret chambers of my heart 

I muse my life-long hate, and without flinch 

I bear it nobly as I live my part. 

My being would be a skeleton, a shell, 

If this dark Passion that fills my every mood, 

And makes my heaven in the white world's hell, 

Did not forever feed me vital blood. 

I see the mighty city through a mist-- 

The strident trains that speed the goaded mass, 

The poles and spires and towers vapor-kissed, 

The fortressed port through which the great ships pass, 

The tides, the wharves, the dens I contemplate, 

Are sweet like wanton loves because I hate. 





Literary Movements:

Harlem Renaissance

Anthology Years:



Intersectionality & Culture

Racial Injustice

Literary Devices:


a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line

Iambic Pentameter

a line of verse composed of five iambs– an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (u / u / u / u / u /) commonly used in the Renaissance period


the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect


correspondence of sound between words or the endings of words, especially when these are used at the ends of lines of poetry