Black (Immigrant) History Spotlight: Claude McKay & Black Immigrants’ Struggles Today

Black (Immigrant) History Spotlight: Claude McKay & Black Immigrants’ Struggles Today

Through February and always, STERN Law recognizes the significant achievements of our country’s black immigrants, both known and unknown. Together we can honor their stories, legacies, and contributions to the United States. 

Here we feature Claude McKay, a Jamaican-American writer and poet –  and the father of the Harlem renaissance. Hailing from Jamaica, McKay studied poetry and fell in love with European poets and their works. As a young adult, he moved from his hometown to Kingston, Jamaica, where he fell victim to strong racism. His experiences in Kingston motivated his early literary works. He eventually migrated to the United States in 1912, living in South Carolina, Alabama, and New York.

McKay’s poems became the backdrop for highlighting racial inequities and issues for Black people. His most famous poem, If We Must Die, was published in 1919 at the height of the “Red Summer.” The Red Summer was a highly violent period of American history where racially motivated terrorism and riots overtook various cities in the United States. In Elaine Arkansas alone, an estimated range of 100-240 Black people were killed in a tense physical altercation known as the Elaine massacre.

McKay has been revered as a protestor of social inequities and hardships for Black people. His unapologetic themes brought to light widely ignored issues. McKay traveled the world and continued to dedicate his lift to injustices.

His works include his most famous novel, Home to Harlem, as well as Banjo, and Banana Bottom. After death, he has been named the poet of Jamaica, and received the Order of Jamaica for his literary contributions. He is listed as one of the 100 Greatest African Americans by Molefi Kete Asante. 

Our clients at STERN Law represent immigrants from all parts of the globe. However, because of the nature of our crImmigration work, our clients and their families have been deeply rooted and assimilated here within our American culture for decades, more so than we typically see with the Latino immigrant community. We defend a significant number of Black clients, who are disproportionately impacted by deportation through injustices in the criminal court system. We see that Black immigrants are most often overlooked or mistaken for U.S. citizens, given that their names may not be “foreign-sounding” and seem like any other Anglo-Saxon name (due to mass colonization of Black nations). Many of our clients don’t present a foreign accent; in fact, some even have adopted their regional U.S. accent (from New York, the South, midwest, etc). As a result, criminal defense lawyers and judges could assume they are not immigrants and improperly leave out important advisories regarding the impact of the criminal charge or conviction on their immigration status. 

STERN Law proudly works to correct these injustices, through appeals of the criminal conviction and overall deportation defense – navigating through all of the stages necessary to overcome the hurdles in the way – ultimately to secure legal residency or achieve U.S. citizenship through naturalization. Check out our previous blog on BAJI

Black Alliance for Just Immigration. In addition to the Court, we are active in the community to partner with organizations fighting for justice. 

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges or the risk of deportation, let us help. We know and understand you and what you’re doing through. Drop us a note here


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