McKay, Claude, 1890-1948

Alternative names
Birth 1890-09-15
Death 1948-05-22

Biographical notes:

Author, poet. Born in Jamaica.

From the description of Claude McKay letters and manuscripts 1915-1952. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122682552

From the guide to the Claude McKay letters and manuscripts, 1915-1952, (The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.)

Claude McKay (1890-1948), novelist and poet.

From the description of Claude McKay collection, 1853-1990 (bulk 1922-1948). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 60366601

From the description of Claude McKay collection, 1853-1990 (bulk 1922-1948). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702135949

Clarence McKay and Carl Zigrosser were friends in the 1930's. McKay's 3 letters invite Zigrosser to parties in Harlem and mention McKay's financial trouble. There is also a newspaper clippin about Earl Lewis Brown from 1965 in the file.

From the description of Correspondence with Carl Zigrosser, 1939-1965. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 155902102

Claude McKay was a Jamaican-born writer who spent most of his adult life in the United States, Europe and North Africa. He wrote several collections of poetry, novels, short stories, non-fiction and two autobiographical books. He is best known for an early poem, "If We Must Die" (1919), and his first novel, Home to Harlem (1928). He lived in the United States, primarily in New York, from 1913-1919, and then spent most of the next 15 years in England, Russia, France, Spain and Morocco before returning to New York in 1934. He contributed to many liberal and socialist journals, including Sylvia Pankhurst's Worker's Dreadnaught and Max Eastman's The Liberator, and he is commonly identified among the major writers of the Harlem Renaissance. He converted to Catholicism in 1944 and died in Chicago in 1948. See the standard biographical print resources for additional information.

From the guide to the Claude McKay collection, 1853-1990, 1922-1948, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Claude McKay, Jamaica-born poet, novelist, and essayist is acknowledged by literary critics as a leading spokesman of the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s.

From the description of Letters, 1964-1967. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 80734600

Festus Claudius McKay, better known as Claude McKay, 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 fairly militant poems challenging white authority in America, and from generally straightforward tales of black life in both Jamaica and America to more philosophically ambitious fiction addressing instinctual/intellectual duality, which McKay found central to the black individual's efforts to cope in a racist society.

From the description of Claude McKay letter to Yasuichi Hikida, 1934 April 2. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 48822707

Claude McKay, born in Jamaica, is known as one of the major artists of the Harlem Renaissance, and authored several published and unpublished poems and novels.

From the description of Claude McKay collection : additions, 1912-1953. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 666964817

1874, January 24Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Carlos Federico Schomburg and Mary Joseph. 1891, April 17Arrived in New York City. 1892Became a Mason and joined the El Sol de Cuba Lodge #38, a Spanish-speaking lodge in New York. 1892-1896Helped found and served as secretary to Las Dos Antillas, a political club committed to the goal of Cuban and Puerto Rican independence. 1895Married Elizabeth Hatcher (d.1900) from Staunton, Virginia.They had three children: Maximo Gomez, Arturo Alfonso Jr. and Kingsley Guarionex. 1901-1906Employed as messenger and clerk in the law firm of Pryor, Mellis and Harris, New York City. 1902Married his second wife, Elizabeth Morrow Taylor from Virginia. They had two children: Reginald Stanfield and Nathaniel Jose. 1904Published his first known article, Is Hayti Decadent? in The Unique Advertiser. 1906-1929Employed by the Bankers Trust Company, eventually becoming supervisor of the Caribbean and Latin American Mail Section. 1909Wrote a short pamphlet, Placido, a Cuban Martyr, about the poet and independence fighter, Gabriel de la Concepcion Valdez. 1911Helped organize and served as secretary of the Negro Society for Historical Research. 1914Married for the third and last time to Elizabeth Green. They had three children: Fernando Alfonso, Dolores Maria and Carlos Placido. 1918Elected Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge. 1920-1929Elected President of the American Negro Academy. 1925Wrote The Negro Digs Up His Past. 1926The New York Public Library purchased Schomburg's collection of books, manuscripts, and prints with a $10,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation. The collection was deposited at the 135th Street Branch of The Library. 1926Traveled to Spain, France, Germany and England with funds from the sale of his collection. 1927Awarded the William E. Harmon Award, consisting of a Bronze Medal and $100, for outstanding work in the field of Education. 1931-1932Served as Curator of the Negro Collection at the library of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. 1932Traveled to Cuba where he met Black Cuban artists and writers, and acquired material for the collection. 1932-1938Served as Curator of the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art, 135th Street Branch, The New York Public Library. 1938, June 8Died, while serving as Curator of the Collection he both envisioned and spent his life creating.

For fuller biographical treatments of Arthur Schomburg's life, see:

Arthur A. Schomburg: A Biographical Essay by Victoria Ortiz in The Legacy of Arthur A. Schomburg: A Celebration of the Past, A Vision for the Future

Exhibition catalog. (New York: The New York Public Library, 1986).

Sinnette, Elinor Des Verney. Arthur Alfonso Schomburg: Black Bibliophile & Collector (The New York Public Library & Wayne State University Press, 1989).

From the guide to the Arthur Alfonso Schomburg papers, 1724-1938, 1904-1938, (The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.)


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  • African American Catholics
  • African American arts
  • Authors, Caribbean--20th century
  • American literature--African American authors
  • Authors, Jamaican
  • Authors, American--20th century--Archives
  • African American authors
  • Harlem Renaissance--Archives
  • Jamaican poetry--20th century
  • Black author
  • African American authors--20th century--Archives
  • Authors, Jamaican--20th century
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • African American librarians
  • American literature--20th century
  • Jamaican Americans
  • African Americans--Societies, etc
  • African Americans--History
  • American poetry--African American authors
  • Book collectors
  • African Americans and libraries--New York (State)--New York
  • Authors, Black--20th century
  • Young Men's Christian associations--United States
  • Conversion
  • African Americans--Religion
  • Public libraries--New York (State)--New York
  • Associations, institutions, etc--African American membership


  • African American authors
  • African American civil rights workers
  • Authors
  • Poets


  • Jamaica (as recorded)
  • Jamaica (as recorded)
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • Jamaica (as recorded)
  • Jamaica (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)