Claude McKay and the Harlem Renaissance
Lecture by Nadifa Mohamed
Claude McKay was central in the cultural, intellectual and political boom in 1920s New York, which has been dubbed the Harlem Renaissance. His writing about Black awakening and the precariousness of Black bodies has made its mark in other writers; James Baldwin is among those who cite McKay among their main inspirations.
Recently, McKay’s until now unpublished novel Amiable With Big Teeth: A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem was published, more than seventy years after it was written. Here, McKay portrays the Black nationalism of 1920s US and the communists’ attempt at getting Black Americans as their allies.
As a police officer, communist, journalist and poet, McKay played both with identity and language. His writing also included poetry, essays and autobiographical texts, and other parts are also being made available along with this newfound novel.
British-American Nadifa Mohamed appeared on Granta’s list of best young British writers in 2013, and has written two novels that both springs out of recent Somali history. This Saturday, she will give a lecture about her encounter with Claude McKay’s Black America.