McKAY, CLAUDE Often regarded as the first significant black writer of the Harlem Renaissance, Claude McKay was born in Jamaica on September 15, 1890. Before emigrating to the United States in 1913 to study agriculture at Tuskegee and, later, at Kansas State University, McKay had established himself as a poet of some consequence in Jamaica. In 1911, for example, he published Songs of Jamaica, for which he not only won acclaim but also the medal of the Institute of Arts and Sciences.
After coming to America, he began publishing his poetry in the then current small literary magazines, including The Seven Arts, The Messenger and The Liberator, subsequently being named an associate editor of the latter. The publication of his Harlem Shadows in 1922 established McKay as one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to his poetry, McKay published several novels, the most notable of which were Home to Harlem (1928) and Banjo (1929). McKay died on May 22, 1948. See also: HARLEM RENAISSANCE.