America

By Claude McKay 1889–1948 Claude McKay
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Claude McKay, "America" from Liberator (December 1921). Courtesy of the Literary Representative for the Works of Claude McKay, Schombourg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tildeen Foundations.

Source: Liberator (The Library of America, 1921)

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Poet Claude McKay 1889–1948

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

Holidays Independence Day

Poetic Terms Sonnet

 Claude  McKay

Biography

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 . . .

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SUBJECT History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Sonnet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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