Claude Mckay

Claude McKay Background

He was a Jamaican-American writer and poet, who lived from 1889-1948 and was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Lived in England, Russia, Jamaica, and USA. Experienced severe racism in South Carolina which influenced him to move to Russia and England, where his career in literature, sky-rocketed.


Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,

And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,

Stealing my breath of life, I will confess

I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.

Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,

Giving me strength erect against her hate,

Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.

The Harlem Project: Life of Claude McKay

America Continued...

Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,

I stand within her walls with not a shred

Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.

Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,

And see her might and granite wonders there,

Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,

Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.


Claude was influenced to write this poem after hearing and witnessing first hand the racism in America. This harsh reality caused him to flee to Europe, where he could look at America from an different point of view, which then influenced him to compose this poem. The context of this poem shows the plusses and minuses of America, but how he must go back for opportunities, despite the hardship.
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