A Theme of Discrimination in Enslaved by Claude Mckay

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 867 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 867|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Claude McKay's Life and Background
  2. "Enslaved": A Poetic Expression of Oppression
  3. The Harlem Renaissance Context
  4. Conclusion
  5. References

The Harlem Renaissance, a pivotal cultural and artistic movement of the early 20th century, marked a significant moment in African American history. The era symbolized a newfound freedom from the shackles of slavery and the emergence of black voices in literature, music, and art. Within this context, Claude McKay, an influential American literary figure, emerged as a prominent poet whose works echoed the struggles of black minorities in a racially discriminatory society. McKay's background as a black man profoundly influenced his literary endeavors, focusing on the themes of oppression, discrimination, and the relentless pursuit of freedom. One of his most notable works, "Enslaved," exemplifies his profound expression of the African American experience during the Harlem Renaissance.

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Claude McKay's Life and Background

Before delving into an analysis of "Enslaved," it is essential to understand the life and background of Claude McKay. Born in Jamaica in 1889, McKay experienced firsthand the systemic racism and prejudice that plagued both his home country and the United States. McKay arrived in the United States in 1912, a time when racial discrimination was pervasive, despite the abolition of slavery in 1865. His experiences with racial injustice profoundly shaped his literary works and led him to become one of the key voices of the Harlem Renaissance.

"Enslaved": A Poetic Expression of Oppression

In "Enslaved," Claude McKay eloquently captures the long-standing oppression endured by African Americans. The poem opens with a powerful lament:

"Oh when I think of my long-suffering race, For weary centuries despised, oppressed, Enslaved and lynched, denied a human place In the great life line of the Christian West."

These lines serve as a poignant reminder of the hardships faced by black Americans over centuries. The words "despised," "oppressed," "enslaved," and "lynched" vividly evoke the pain and suffering inflicted upon them by a society that considered itself superior based on race and religion.

The poem continues to explore the injustices faced by black people, even in their ancestral homeland:

"And in the Black Land disinherited, Robbed in the ancient country of its birth,"

Here, McKay highlights the injustice of colonization, where European powers usurped the wealth and resources of African nations, leaving their inhabitants impoverished and disenfranchised. The "Black Land" symbolizes Africa, stripped of its riches and prosperity by colonial powers.

Claude McKay's "Enslaved" is not merely a lamentation of the past; it is a fervent cry for justice and freedom. McKay's heart "grows sick with hate" for the injustices perpetrated against his race, and he yearns for a world where the oppressive system is dismantled:

"Then from the dark depths of my soul I cry To the Avenging angel to consume The white man's world of wonders utterly: Let it be swallowed up in earth's vast womb Or upward roll as sacrificial smoke To liberate my people from its yoke!"

In these lines, McKay expresses his desire for the world of the oppressors to be consumed and for justice to prevail. He envisions a world where the white man's dominance is eradicated, either by being "swallowed up in earth's vast womb" or by ascending as "sacrificial smoke." This imagery reflects his longing for the liberation of his people from the yoke of oppression.

The Harlem Renaissance Context

To fully appreciate McKay's contribution to the Harlem Renaissance, it is important to understand the historical and cultural backdrop of the era. The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement that flourished in the 1920s, centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. It was a period of intellectual and creative awakening for African Americans, characterized by a proliferation of literature, music, art, and activism.

During this time, African American artists, writers, and musicians sought to challenge stereotypes and advocate for racial equality. Claude McKay's poetry, including "Enslaved," played a crucial role in shaping the discourse of the Harlem Renaissance. His words resonated with the experiences of many black Americans and served as a rallying cry for justice and freedom.


In conclusion, Claude McKay's poem "Enslaved" serves as a powerful testament to the enduring struggle of African Americans against oppression, discrimination, and injustice. McKay's personal experiences as a black man in a racially discriminatory society deeply influenced his literary works. Through his poetry, he not only highlighted the suffering endured by his race but also fervently called for justice and freedom.

The Harlem Renaissance, within which McKay's work gained prominence, provided a platform for black artists to challenge stereotypes and advocate for racial equality. McKay's poetry, including "Enslaved," contributed significantly to the cultural and intellectual dialogue of the era.

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In the face of adversity, Claude McKay's poetry exemplifies the resilience and determination of African Americans to overcome oppression and to assert their rightful place in society. "Enslaved" remains a powerful and enduring literary work that continues to inspire and resonate with readers, reminding us of the ongoing struggle for justice and equality.


  1. McKay, C. (1920). Enslaved. In H. L. Gates Jr. & N. H. Higginbotham Jr. (Eds.), The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (3rd ed., pp. 935). W. W. Norton & Company.
  2. Adewumi & Samuel, I. (2014). Thematic Trends in Claude McKay’s Selected Poems of The Harlem Era. International Journl of Education & Literacy Studies. 2(2): 1-16.
  3. Hutchinson, G. (2015). The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White. Harvard University Press.
  4. Lewis, D. L. (2009). When Harlem Was in Vogue. Penguin Classics.
  5. Wintz, C. D. (1996). Harlem Speaks: A Living History of the Harlem Renaissance. Sourcebooks MediaFusion.
  6. McKay, C. (1990). A Long Way from Home: The Claude McKay Story. A. Rampersad (Ed.). Rutgers University Press.
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A Theme Of Discrimination In Enslaved By Claude Mckay. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
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