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 Claude McKay

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Claude McKay

  • Birth 15 Sep 1889 Clarendon, Jamaica
  • Death 22 May 1948 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
  • Burial Woodside, Queens County, New York, USA
  • Plot Second Calvary, Section 42, Range 14, Plot R, Grave 5
  • Memorial ID 698

Poet, Novelist and Journalist. He was born Festus Claudius McKay in Sunny Ville, Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, the son of Thomas Francis McKay and Hannah Ann Elizabeth Edwards, farmers. An avid reader, he began to write poetry at the age of ten. In 1907 McKay came to the attention of Walter Jekyll, an English gentleman residing in Jamaica who became his mentor, encouraging him to write dialect verse. Jekyll later set some of McKay's verse to music. By the time he immigrated to the United States in 1912, McKay had established himself as a poet, publishing two volumes of dialect verse, Songs of Jamaica (1912) and Constab Ballads (1912). He entered school at Tuskegee Institute and quickly learned about racism which influenced much of his writing. His mentor, Jekyll gave him a gift that allowed him to invest in a restaurant in New York and he married Eulalie Imelda Lewars. He became the editor of The Liberator and wrote some very moving protest poetry including, "If We Must Die", "The Lynching", "The Baptism", and "The White House". He lived and traveled throughout Europe and published books and journalist essays that were highly acclaimed. Some state he figured prominently in the Harlem Renaissance and a few state he was a marginal figure in part because he was in France during the heyday (1925-29) of the Renaissance. In his book Home to Harlem (1927), he openly discusses Harlem's black experience with lesbianism and even has a significant black gay male character. He also wrote about lower-class characters considered unsavory by the black bourgeoisie and the black leaders who only wanted positive images of success and respectability written. After he returned to the United States employment was difficult to find and for a while he worked for the Federal Writers' Project. McKay's published work during this period included his autobiography, A Long Way From Home (1937) and Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940). High blood pressure and heart disease led to a steady physical decline, and in a move that surprised his friends, McKay abandoned his lifelong agnosticism and embraced Catholicism. In 1944 he left New York for Chicago. He eventually succumbed to congestive heart failure while in Chicago.

Bio by: AlongSide





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 698
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Claude McKay (15 Sep 1889–22 May 1948), Find A Grave Memorial no. 698, citing Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, Queens County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .