Textual History

This poem also appeared in:

In Pearson's Magazine, this poem (along with "To the White Fiends," "The Conqueror," "The Park in Spring," and "Is it Worth While?") was prefaced by a statement by McKay, "Claude McKay Describes His Own Life: A Negro Poet".


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Harlem Shadows

  1. I hear the halting footsteps of a lass

  2. In Negro Harlem when the night lets fall

  3. Its veil. I see the shapes of girls who pass

  4. To bend and barter at desire's call. Eager to heed desire's insistent call:§

  5. Ah, little dark girls ,§ who in slippered feet

  6. Go prowling through the night from street to street!.§

  7. Through the long night until the silver break

  8. Of day the little gray feet know no rest;,§

  9. Through the lone night until the last snow-flake

  10. Has dropped from heaven upon the earth's white breast,

  11. The dusky, half-clad girls of tired feet

  12. Are trudging, thinly shod, from street to street.

  13. Ah, stern harsh world, that in the wretched way

  14. Of poverty, dishonor dishonour and disgrace,§

  15. Has pushed the timid little feet of clay,.

  16. The sacred brown feet of my fallen race!

  17. Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet

  18. In Harlem wandering from street to street.


Harlem Shadows (1922)

Additional Poems by Claude McKay

Contemporary Reviews

Supplementary Texts