Progress?: Racial Stagnancy and “The Lynching”


This image is a reenactment of a KKK rally taken from the famous Coen Brother’s film “O Brother Where Art Thou”

Claude McKay, a canonized and widely appreciated African American poet, is known most for his poetic commentary on racism and African American lifestyle in relation to the white world he was born into. Living in a post-civil war era, McKay took his position as a poet to express the racial problems in his nation, most specifically in his poem “The Lynching”. Published in 1920, “The Lynching” arrived on the scene in the midst of a racial war going on, specifically in the southern states of America. Hundreds of colored men, women, and children were killed at the hand of racism and rage, several even displayed in public execution. What is special about McKay’s poem is the way he addresses lynching as an age-old and historically predominant factor in not only African Americans’ lives, but anyone who was perceived as “other” throughout history, moving all the way back to Christ. “The cruelest way of pain” as McKay claims the lynched death to be is a description of hate crime. The KKK in full swing, 1920 was a hard hear for African Americans, and many historians and critics claim it to be one of the darkest times in American history. However, what McKay is trying to say is that lynching and violent discrimination is not a new thing. For centuries, he says, there has been cruelty and death put upon African Americans throughout the duration of slavery, the civil war, and well into the 20th century.

This entry was posted in Chronos: Social Change. Bookmark the permalink.