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Words of Protest, Words of Freedom: Poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era


Words of Protest, Words of Freedom: Poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Poetry is an ideal artistic medium for expressing the fear, sorrow, and triumph of revolutionary times. Words of Protest, Words of Freedom is the first comprehensive collection of poems written during and in response to the American civil rights struggle of 1955–75. Featuring some of the most celebrated writers of the twentieth century—including Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell, and Derek Walcott—alongside lesser-known poets, activists, and ordinary citizens, this anthology presents a varied and vibrant set of voices, highlighting the tremendous symbolic reach of the civil rights movement within and beyond the United States.

Some of the poems address crucial movement-related events—such as the integration of the Little Rock schools, the murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, the emergence of the Black Panther party, and the race riots of the late 1960s—and key figures, including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and John and Robert Kennedy. Other poems speak more broadly to the social and political climate of the times. Along with Jeffrey Lamar Coleman's headnotes, the poems recall the heartbreaking and jubilant moments of a tumultuous era. Altogether, more than 150 poems by approximately 100 poets showcase the breadth of the genre of civil rights poetry.

Selected contributors. Maya Angelou, W. H. Auden, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, June Jordan, Philip Levine, Audre Lorde, Robert Lowell, Pauli Murray, Huey P. Newton, Adrienne Rich, Sonia Sanchez, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Derek Walcott, Alice Walker, Yevgeny Yevtushenko


Words of Protest, Words of Freedom is the first comprehensive collection of poems written during and in response to America s turbulent Civil Rights era.

About the Author

Jeffrey Lamar Coleman is Associate Professor of English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He is the author of Spirits Distilled: Poems.

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xvii

Introduction. Journey toward Freedom 1

"Had she been worth the blood?"

The Lynching of Emmett Till, 1955 15

Remembrance / Rhoda Gaye Ascher 17

The Better Sort of People / John Beecher 17

A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon / Gwendolyn Brooks 19

The Last Quatrain on the Ballad of Emmett Till / Gwendolyn Brooks 23

On the State of the Union / Aimé Césaire 24

Temperate Belt: Reflections on the Mother of Emmett Till / Durwood Collins Jr. 26

Emmett Till / James A. Emanuel 27

Elegy for Emmett Till / Nicolás Guillén 28

Mississippi—1955 (To the Memory of Emmett Till) / Langston Hughes 31

Money, Mississippi / Eve Merriam 32

Salute / Oliver Pitcher 33

"Godfearing citizens / with Bibles, taunts, and stones"

The Little Rock Crisis, 1957-1958 35

The Chicago Defender Sends a Man to Little Rock / Gwendolyn Brooks 37

Little Rock / Nicolás Guillén 39

School Integration Riot / Robert Hayden 40

My Blackness Is the Beauty of This Land / Lance Jeffers 41

"The FBI knows who lynched you"

The Murder of Mack Charles Parker, 1959 43

Poplarville II / Keith E. Baird 45

Mack C. Parker / Phillip Abbott Luce 45

For Mack C. Parker / Pauli Murray 48

Collect for Poplarville / Pauli Murray 49

"Fearless before the waiting throng"

The Life and Death of Medgar Evers 51

Medgar Evers (for Charles Evers) / Gwendolyn Brooks 53

American (In Memory of Medgar Evers) / R. D. Coleman 53

For Medgar Evers / David Ignatow 54

Blues for Medgar Evers / Aaron Kramer 55

Micah (In Memory of Medgar Evers of Mississippi) / Margaret Walker 56

"Under the leaves of hymnals, the plaster and stone"

The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing, 15 September 1963 57

Escort for a President / John Beecher 60

American History / Michael S. Harper 61

Here Where Coltrane Is / Michael S. Harper 62

Birmingham Sunday / Langston Hughes 63

Suffer the Children / Audre Lorde 64

Birmingham 1963 / Raymond Patterson 64

Ballad of Birmingham / Dudley Randall 65

Ballad for Four Children and a President / Edith Segal 67

September 1963 / Jean Valentine 68

"What we have seen / Has become history, tragedy"

The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 22 November 1963 71

Belief / A. R. Ammons 75

Elegy for J. F. K. / W. H. Auden 76

The Assassination of John F. Kennedy / Gwendolyn Brooks 80

On Not Writing an Elegy / Robert Frost 81

At the Brooklyn Docks, November 23, 1963 / Dorothy Gilbert 81

Verba in Memoriam / Barbara Guest 82

Until Death Do Us Part / Anselm Hollo 85

A Night Picture of Pownal, for J. F. K. / Barbara Howes 86

Before the Sabbath / David Ignatow 88

Jacqueline / Will Inman 89

Down in Dallas / X. J. Kennedy 89

In Arlington Cemetery / Stanley Koehler 90

Four Days in November / Marjorie Mir 92

Sonnet for John-John / Marvin Solomon 92

Not That Hurried for Grief, for John F. Kennedy / Lorenzo Thomas 93

November 22, 1963 / Lewis Turco 94

The Gulf / Derek Walcott 95

"Deep in the Mississippi thicket / I hear the mourning dove"

The Search for James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, 1964 99

A Commemorative Ode / John Beecher 102

Mississippi, 1964 / Marjorie Mir 105

The Book of Job and a Draft of a Poem to Praise the Paths of the Living / George Oppen 106

The Demonstration / Gregory Orr 112

Schwerner, Chaney, Goodman / Raymond Patterson 113

Speech for LeRoi / Armand Schwerner 113

When Black People Are / A. B. Spellman 115

For Andy Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney / Margaret Walker 117

"We are not beasts and do not / intend to be beaten"

Riots, Rebellions, and Uprisings 121

Riot: 60's / Maya Angelou 125

Attica—U.S.A. / Keith E. Baird 126

finish / Charles Bukowski 127

Heroes / Karl Carter 129

Revolutionary Letter #3 / Daine de Prima 130

A Mother Speaks: The Algiers Motel Incident, Detroit / Michael S. Harper 132

Keep on Pushing / David Henderson 132

Poem against the State (of Things): 1975 / June Jordan 138

On the Birth of My Son, Malcolm Coltrane / Julius Lester 145

The Gulf / Denise Levertov 146

Coming Home, Detroit, 1968 / Philip Levine 148

If We Cannot Live as People / Charles Lynch 149

Kuntu / Larry Neal 150

Watts / Ojenke (Alvin Saxon) 152

In Orangeburg My Brothers Did / A. B. Spellman 153

"Prophets were ambushed as they spoke"

The Assassination of Malcolm X, 21 February 1965 155

A Poem for Black Hearts / Amiri Baraka 158

For Malcolm: After Mecca / Gerald W. Barrax 159

Malcolm X (for Dudley Randall) / Gwendolyn Brooks 159

Judas / Karl Carter 160

malcolm / Lucille Clifton 161

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz / Robert Hayden 161

Portrait of Malcolm X (for Charles Baxter), Etheridge Knight 163

Malcolm X—An Autobiography / Larry Neal 164

At That Moment / Raymond Patterson 166

If Blood Is Black Then Spirit Neglects My Unborn Son / Conrad Kent Rivers 167

malcolm / Sonia Sanchez 168

For Malcolm Who Walks in the Eyes of Our Children / Quincy Troupe 169

For Malcolm X / Margaret Walker 171

That Old Time Religion / Marvin X 171

"In the panic of hooves, bull whips, and gas"

Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March, 1965 173

Ode to Jimmy Lee / Jim "Arkansas" Benston 176

The Road to Selma / June Brindel 178

Selma, Alabama, 3/6/65 / Louis Daniel Brodsky 180

The Sun of the Future / Thich Nhat Hanh 181

Race Relations / Carolyn Kizer 183

Alabama Centennial / Naomi Long Madgett 185

On a Highway East of Selma, Alabama / Gregory Orr 186

Crumpled Notes (found in a raincoat) on Selma / Maria Varela 188

"Set afire by the cry of / BLACK POWER"

The Birth and Legacy of the Black Panther Party 193

The Black Mass Needs but One Crucifixion / Kathleen Cleaver 197

apology (to the panthers) / Lucille Clifton 199

Revolutionary Letter #20 / Diane di Prima 200

For Angela / Zack Gilbert 201

May King's Prophecy / Allen Ginsberg 202

Black Power (For all the Beautiful Black Panthers East) / Nikki Giovanni 204

Newsletter from My Mother: 8:30 a.m., December 8, 1969 / Michael S. Harper 205

[let the fault be with the man] / Ericka Huggins 206

The Day the Audience Walked Out on Me, and Why / Denise Levertov 207

One-Sided Shoot-out / Haki Madhubuti (Don L. Lee) 208


Product Details

Coleman, Jeffrey Lamar
Duke University Press
Poetry/African American
Poetry -Anthologies
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Trade Paper
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Words of Protest, Words of Freedom: Poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era New Trade Paper
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Words of Protest, Words of Freedom is the first comprehensive collection of poems written during and in response to America s turbulent Civil Rights era.
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