Claude McKay: A Black Poet's Struggle for Identity

By Tyrone Tillery | Go to book overview

8
A Long Way from Home

BY THE 1930S McKay had finally realized the inevitable influence of race. It had been evident both in his attempts at reviving a literary movement among blacks and in his opposition to the Communists. With even greater determination and amidst public controversy, he extended his racial nationalism to economics.

Throughout the Depression era, strong nationalist tendencies were clearly visible in the economic realm, notwithstanding the popularity of the economic radicals. Exponents of bourgeois economic nationalism found a degree of success through their advocacy of "Double Duty Dollar" movements and the more popular "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" campaigns.8 The Double Duty Dollar movements urged blacks to buy from Negroes-- making the dollar do double duty by purchasing both a commodity and "advancing the race."2 At least thirty-five cities witnessed pickets and boycotts by "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" campaigns struggling to get employment for African Americans in white-owned businesses. Some, for example, those in Cleveland and New York, lasted for years, often engaging large segments of the black community and securing significant numbers of jobs for blacks.3 The "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" campaigns were embraced by a diverse spectrum of organizations concerned with black economic advancement, from the nationally based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to the purely local, nationalist street-corner speakers such as Sufi Abdul Hamid.4 McKay's defense of Hamid underscores his continuing retreat to racial chauvinism.

During the early thirties Hamid, a former Garveyite, had gained some fame for his fairly successful "More Jobs for Negroes: Buy Where You Work" campaign against Chicago's white merchants. In 1933, Hamid decided to take his campaign to New York's Harlem. There Hamid organized the Negro Industrial and Clerical Alliance to protest the refusal of white merchants to hire

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Claude McKay: A Black Poet's Struggle for Identity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - In Search of Larger Worlds 3
  • 2 - In Search of Moorings 21
  • 3 - The Problems of a Black Radical: 1919-1923 38
  • 4 - "How Shall the Negro Be Portrayed?" and Home to Harlem 76
  • 5 - Banjo: Art and Self-Catharsis 107
  • 6 - Back to Harlem 126
  • 7 - I Have Come to Lead the Renaissance 148
  • 8 - A Long Way from Home 165
  • Notes 185
  • Bibliography 219
  • Index 231
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