McKay, Claude. "Harlem Shadows".
The speaker describes a night in Harlem which is marked by the footsteps of black girls prowling from street to street. Their "little gray feet" cross the streets all the night. The speaker observes their shapes and their thin dresses, they are "half-clad", but he substitutes the prostitutes for their feet in most of his images.
The speaker blames the harsh world who has made the "little feet of clay" so wretched and pushed them on the streets. He laments the "weary feet" in the streets and his "fallen race" in general.
- rather traditional in form, also in the traditionally elaborate poetic language
- the poem abounds in beautiful metaphors; this devices create a striking contrast with the subject of the poem
- motif of colours: the dark night and feet are contrasted with white snow falling on "the earth's white breast"; the black prostitutes are associated with night and shadows
- a poem of social protest, specifically points out the hardships of coloured women
- not an aggressive poem (unlike his poem "America"), rather pitiful and melancholy
AuthorMcKay, Claude. (1889 - 1948).
Full Title"Harlem Shadows".
McKay, Claude. "Harlem Shadows". (1920). In: The Harper American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade et al. 2nd Compact Edition. NY: Harper & Collins, 1996.