Poetry/Culture Corner | Claude Mc Kay

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Claude Mc Kay | Photo courtesy- Poetry Foundation

Brief background- Claude McKay was a Jamaican- American writer. He was born Festus Claudius McKay on September 15, 1889 in the Clarendon Parish, Jamaica to parents who were peasant farmers. McKay migrated to the United States (U.S) and was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance with the likes of W.E. DeBois.

According to the U.S Library of Congress:-The Harlem Renaissance was a period in American history from the 1920s and 1930s. During this time, many African-Americans migrated from the South to Northern cities, seeking economic and creative opportunities. Within their communities creative expression became an outlet for writers, musicians, artists, and photographers, with a particular concentration in Harlem, New York.

McKay had an extensive body of literacy work some of which are:- Songs of Jamaica (1912), Constab Ballads (1912), Spring in New Hampshire (1920), Harlem Shadows (1922), Home to Harlem (1928), Selected Poems (1953), The Dialectic Poetry of Claude McKay (1972), and The Passion of Claude McKay: Selected Poetry and Prose (1973).

McKay died on May 22, 1948 in Chicago, Illinois, USA.


If We Must Die –Claude McKay

If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,

Making their mock at our accursèd lot.

If we must die, O let us nobly die,

So that our precious blood may not be shed

In vain; then even the monsters we defy

Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!

O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!

Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,

And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!

What though before us lies the open grave?

Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

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