Langston Hughes, “Harlem”
Both Claude McKay and Langston Hughes made significant contributions to the Harlem Renaissance, and the latter’s poem “Harlem” explores themes also central to “If We Must Die.”
Since McKay wrote “If I Must Die” as an English sonnet, it seems unavoidable that we should consider reading the works of the sonneteer whose name is most often associated with the form: William Shakespeare.
Booker T. Washington’s 1901 autobiography narrates the author’s rise from a childhood of slavery to an influential man of letters. As a landmark text about rising out of oppressive conditions of subjugation, Washington’s memoir has something important in common with McKay’s poem.