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Claude McKay. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105919).

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McKay, Claude (15 September 1890–22 May 1948), poet, novelist, and journalist, was born Festus Claudius McKay in Sunny Ville, Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, the son of Thomas Francis McKay and Hannah Ann Elizabeth Edwards, farmers. The youngest of eleven children, McKay was sent at an early age to live with his oldest brother, a schoolteacher, so that he could be given the best education available. An avid reader, McKay began to write poetry at the age of ten. In 1906 he decided to enter a trade school, but when the school was destroyed by an earthquake he became apprenticed to a carriage and cabinetmaker; a brief period in the constabulary followed. In 1907 McKay came to the attention of Walter Jekyll, an English gentleman residing in Jamaica who became his mentor, encouraging him to write dialect verse. Jekyll later set some of McKay’s verse to music. By the time he immigrated to the United States in 1912, McKay had established himself as a poet, publishing two volumes of dialect verse, ...

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Ridge, John Rollin (1827–1867), poet, novelist, and journalist, was born in the Cherokee Nation (present-day Georgia) to John Ridge, a leader of the Cherokees, and Sarah Bird Northrup. At the time, the Cherokee Nation was being pressed by the U.S. government and Georgia settlers to leave their lands and move to territories in the West not yet reached by the advancing frontier. Ridge’s family played an important role in Cherokee affairs; both his father and grandfather, ...