Happy Birthday Claude McKay!

This week we celebrate the Jamaican writer and poet Claude McKay. McKay was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance literary movement. His father was of Ashanti descent; his mother traced her ancestry to Madagascar. Some of his poems and novels express a longing for “the old familiar ways” of his homeland.

Claude McKay was born on September 15,1889. McKay is a figure from the Core Ensemble Show “Of Ebony Embers”, celebrating the lives of great African-American poets & artists. Please enjoy this video of actor Dracyn Blount reading his most famous poem:

“If we must die, O let us nobly die/So that our precious blood may not be shed/In vain….”

Claude McKay’s novels and poems offer a vivid depiction of life in Harlem: 

“I hear the halting footsteps of a lass

In Negro Harlem when the night lets fall

Its veil….Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet

In Harlem wandering from street to street.”

During his lifetime, McKay lived in the Soviet Union, France, Spain, Morocco, and the United States. In both Home to Harlem and Banjo (1929), he captured the vitality of the uprooted black vagabonds of America and Europe.

In 1977, the government of Jamaica named Claude McKay the national poet, and posthumously awarded him the Order of Jamaica for his contribution to literature. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Claude McKay on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans. McKay is regarded as the foremost progressive black intellectual of his age and his work influenced a generation of black authors including James Baldwin and Richard Wright.

Core Ensemble diversity programs would not exist without the help of our donors! Your support will enable us to create a Virtual Library of our Music Theatre Pieces that Celebrate Diversity and Social Justice. “Of Ebony Embers” will be just one of our virtual show offerings, to be made available to schools, community groups, colleges, and universities. THANK YOU!