Claude McKay

1989, Jamaica, West Indies

Claude McKay was born in Jamaica, West Indies, in 1889. He was educated by his older brother, who possessed a library of English novels, poetry, and scientific texts.

At the age of twenty, McKay published a book of verse called Songs of Jamaica, recording his impressions of black life in Jamaica in dialect. In 1912, he travelled to the United States to attend Tuskegee Institute. He remained there only a few months, leaving to study agriculture at Kansas State University.

December, 1919

Last night I heard your voice, mother,
  The words you sang to me
When I, a little barefoot boy,
  Knelt down against your knee.

And tears gushed from my heart, mother,
  And passed beyond its wall,
But though the fountain reached my throat
  The drops refused to fall.

'Tis ten years since you died, mother,
  Just ten dark years of pain,
And oh, I only wish that I
  Could weep just once again.