Claude McKay

The FBI's Globetrotter of the Harlem Renaissance

Beginning in 1919, under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI monitored "prominent African American authors and literary institutions" ranging from George Schuyler to Ebony Magazine. The F. B. Eyes Digital Archive documents 51 of the FBI files, thanks to the work of William J. Maxwell. Among those monitored was Claude McKay, a Jamaican-born author of poems, novels, memoirs, and political commentary. His novel Home to Harlem (1928) became "the first black bestseller of the New Negro era" and it was McKay's "long string of literary 'firsts' [that] helped to make him the first African American author to be tracked in an FBI file of his own."  McKay's file ranges from 1921 to 1940 and tracks his travels from the United States to Europe. Although Claude McKay's travels seem erratic, his movement had a kind of logic, from modern America to the historic British Isles, from revolutionary Russia to late-empire France, from pagan Spain to Muslim Morocco. This website aims to document McKay's travels in conversation with reports found in the FBI file. Use the 3D globe to explore McKay's travels, and then either return to the globe with the "Home/Globe" button at the menu bar in the top right or continue on to the next location as McKay did with the "Next Location" button at the bottom of each page.