Claude Mckay, the workers’ dreadnought, and collaborative poetics

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2 Scopus citations


This paper considers the journalism and poetry Claude McKay produced for Sylvia Pankhurst’s communist weekly Workers’ Dreadnought in 1920 as a collaboratively produced body of work. This allowed Pankhurst to have a Black communist commentator on hand to cover workers’ issues, and McKay used Pankhurst’s periodical as a platform from which to dramatise the aesthetic and political potential inherent in collaboration between working-class activists, journalists, and artists for the paper’s readers. In the Dreadnought’s pages, McKay’s poems very publicly weighed the value of collaborative labour and considered the arts’ place in the class struggle. He simultaneously produced journalism that advocated collaboration among races to resist the racial antagonism that sparked violence in the most impoverished East End communities in the summers of 1919 and 1920. Ultimately, McKay’s work for the Dreadnought produced a holistic representation of working-class intellectual life founded on the production of beauty and the exercise of aesthetic as well as political judgment, one that depicts these activities as inevitably commingled and collaboratively produced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-48
Number of pages22
JournalLiterature and History
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Claude McKay
  • Collaboration
  • Modernism
  • Periodical studies
  • Postwar Britain
  • Race in Britain
  • Sylvia Pankhurst
  • Workers’ dreadnought

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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