Overview

The horrific 1955 slaying of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till marks a significant turning point in the history of American race relations. An African American boy from Chicago, Till was visiting relatives in the Mississippi Delta when he was accused of "wolf-whistling" at a young white woman. His murderers abducted him from his great-uncle's home, beat him, then shot him in the head. Three days later, searchers discovered his body in the Tallahatchie River. The two white men charged with his murder received a swift ...

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Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination

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Overview

The horrific 1955 slaying of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till marks a significant turning point in the history of American race relations. An African American boy from Chicago, Till was visiting relatives in the Mississippi Delta when he was accused of "wolf-whistling" at a young white woman. His murderers abducted him from his great-uncle's home, beat him, then shot him in the head. Three days later, searchers discovered his body in the Tallahatchie River. The two white men charged with his murder received a swift acquittal from an all-white jury. The eleven essays in Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination examine how the narrative of the Till lynching continues to haunt racial consciousness and to resonate in our collective imagination.

The trial and acquittal of Till's murderers became, in the words of one historian, "the first great media event of the civil rights movement," and since then, the lynching has assumed a central place in literary memory. The international group of contributors to this volume explores how the Emmett Till story has been fashioned and refashioned in fiction, poetry, drama, and autobiography by writers as diverse as William Bradford Huie, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde, Anne Moody, Nicolás Guillén, Aimé Césaire, Bebe Moore Campbell, and Lewis Nordan. They suggest the presence of an "Emmett Till narrative" deeply embedded in post-1955 literature, an overarching recurrent plot that builds on recognizable elements and is as legible as the "lynching narrative" or the "passing narrative." Writers have fashioned Till's story in many ways: an the annotated bibliography that ends the volume discusses more than 130 works that memorialize the lynching, calling attention to the full extent of Till's presence in literary memory.

Breaking new ground in civil rights studies and the discussion of race in America, Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination eloquently attests to the special power and artistic resonance of one young man's murder.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807154830
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2008
  • Series: Southern Literary Studies
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Harriet Pollack, an associate professor of English at Bucknell University, is coeditor of Eudora Welty and Politics: Did the Writer Crusade? and editor of Having Our Way: Women Rewriting Tradition in Twentieth-Century America.

Christopher Metress is a professor of English at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and is the editor of The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative and The Critical Response to Dashiell Hammett.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     vii
The Emmett Till Case and Narrative[s]: An Introduction and Overview   Harriet Pollack   Christopher Metress     1
On That Third Day He Rose: Sacramental Memory and the Lynching of Emmett Till   Christopher Metress     16
The Murder of Emmett Till in the Melodramatic Imagination: William Bradford Huie and Vin Packer in the 1950s   Sharon Monteith     31
Flesh That Needs to Be Loved: Langston Hughes Writing the Body of Emmett Till   Myisha Priest     53
James Baldwin's Unifying Polemic: Racial Segregation, Moral Integration, and the Polarizing Figure of Emmett Till   Brian Norman     75
Maids Mild and Dark Villains, Sweet Magnolias and Seeping Blood: Gwendolen Brooks's Poetic Response to the Lynching of Emmett Till   Vivian M. May     98
It Could Have Been My Son: Maternal Empathy in Gwendolyn Brooks's and Audre Lorde's Till Poems   Laura Dawkins     112
Silence and the Frustration of Broken Promises: Anne Moody's Struggle with the Lynching of Emmett Till and the Civil Rights Movement   Kathaleen Amende     128
This Corpse So Small Left Unavenged: Nicolas Guillen and Aime Cesaire on Emmett Till's Lynching   Sylvie Kande     143
Childhood Trauma and Its Reverberations in Bebe Moore Campbell's Your Blues Ain't Like Mine   SuzanneW. Jones     161
Grotesque Laughter, Unburied Bodies, and History: Shape-Shifting in Lewis Nordan's Wolf Whistle   Harriet Pollack     178
(Dis)embodying the Delta Blues Wolf Whistle and Your Blues Ain't Like Mine   Donnie McMahand     202
Literary Representations of the Lynching of Emmett Till: An Annotated Bibliography   Christopher Metress     223
Contributors     251
Index     255
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