The "New York State of Mind" of Claude McKay : a literary biography pf a Caribbean writer's contribution to the Harlem Renaissance and the creation of the new negro.
Graham, Craig Barnes.
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As the nineteenth century drew to a close and the twentieth century began to take shape, literary expressions of anti-colonialism, racial equality, black pride, and Pan Africanism began to define the mission and vision of Anglophone Caribbean men of letters such as Claude McKay, the radical Jamaican poet, writer, and traveler who unabashedly challenged the firmly etched repressive lines of disenfranchisement, discrimination, poverty and hate in his literature, politics and international sojourns throughout the course of his life. In my dissertation entitled, I closely examine the invaluable yet often understated positive influence his unapologetic brand of self-love, determination and intrepidness had on black culture, writers, performers, politicians and particularly, the black working class, the group from which McKay hailed and held in highest regard due to its strength, humility and incomparable humanity, within the African Diaspora. My research seeks to find the answers to the following three questions: Who shaped or greatly influenced McKay’s radical approach to life? How/Why did this way of living become a definitive part of his ethos during the Harlem Renaissance, the Creation of the New Negro and throughout the course of his life? And most importantly, How/Why did his brand of radicalism evolve and manifest at the end of his life? My findings to these questions have led me to conclude that the life and works and legacy of McKay play an indelible role in the formation of the Black Nationalism, Pan Africanism, the Black Arts Movement and most importantly, The Civil Rights Movement. And this fact holds even greater truth since the discovery of his unpublished manuscript written seven years before his death, entitled Amiable with Big Teeth was found in 2012 at Columbia University. To date, few dissertations have parsed this work in defense of his important legacy as an anti-colonialist, literary pioneer and radical thinker often tarnished by historians who attribute his rejection of Socialism, Communism and conversion to Catholicism towards the end of his life as a glaring sign of inner brokenness and defeat. I argue, on the contrary, however, that his late life decisions were equally heterodox because he used them to further his radical bent, this time working from within world systems such as Christianity, a religion Dr. Martin Luther King would later use to mobilize and rouse African-Americans to fight for their rights non-violently. I also credit the life and times of McKay in the founding of subsequent human rights movements such as the Women’s Rights Movements, the LBGTQ movement and most recently, Black lives Matter Movement as well.