BN.com Gift Guide

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

Overview

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 ...

See more details below
Paperback (New Edition)
$20.61
BN.com price
(Save 17%)$24.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (17) from $14.45   
  • New (10) from $15.48   
  • Used (7) from $14.45   
Sending request ...

Overview

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

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Editor Jeffrey Lamar Coleman has combined scholarship with art. There are 14 sections to the book and each is preceded by an essay as educational scaffolding for the poems. Each essay, a small exegesis of history, describes how the poems relate. It’s a masterwork of organization and strategy. Not only African American poets are represented here, the editor points out, and the 82 poets make up a roster that could fill any poetry hall of fame. Some are dead, some venerable, some unknown, but the poems are each honored with context and framework.” - Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books

“This marvelous collection of poems written from 1955 to 1975 brings back the emotions and memories of those times as only poetry can. The short, informative introduction to each section serves both teenagers and adults well. Teachers will want to share these fine poems with their students. . . . his is a perfect title to highlight during Black History Month or Poetry Month, and a terrific addition to school library collections all year round.” - Karlan Sick, School Library Journal

“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, Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, 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.” - Dennis Moore, Electronic Urban Report

“[T]he collection gives readers a unique access to the poems as artworks. Due to the consistency of subject matter, each section highlights profound differences in poetic sensibility, technique, and voice. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.” - R. K. Mookerjee, Choice

"America's ongoing civil rights movement reflects the triumphs and travails of struggles for citizenship, equality, and social justice. Jeffrey Lamar Coleman's insightful and illuminating work redirects our gaze toward the power of poetry in transforming the nation's postwar civil rights landscape. An essential book for students and scholars of the civil rights struggle."—Peniel E. Joseph, author of Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama

R. K. Mookerjee
“[T]he collection gives readers a unique access to the poems as artworks. Due to the consistency of subject matter, each section highlights profound differences in poetic sensibility, technique, and voice. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.”
Grace Cavalieri
“Editor Jeffrey Lamar Coleman has combined scholarship with art. There are 14 sections to the book and each is preceded by an essay as educational scaffolding for the poems. Each essay, a small exegesis of history, describes how the poems relate. It’s a masterwork of organization and strategy. Not only African American poets are represented here, the editor points out, and the 82 poets make up a roster that could fill any poetry hall of fame. Some are dead, some venerable, some unknown, but the poems are each honored with context and framework.”
Dennis Moore
“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, Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, 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.”
Karlan Sick
“This marvelous collection of poems written from 1955 to 1975 brings back the emotions and memories of those times as only poetry can. The short, informative introduction to each section serves both teenagers and adults well. Teachers will want to share these fine poems with their students. . . . his is a perfect title to highlight during Black History Month or Poetry Month, and a terrific addition to school library collections all year round.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822351030
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 2/29/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,385,428
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet 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.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

WORDS OF PROTEST, WORDS OF FREEDOM

POETRY OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND ERA

DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2012 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-5103-0


Chapter One

"Had she been worth the blood?" THE LYNCHING OF EMMETT TILL, 1955

Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, during the summer of 1955 when he made the mistake of flirting with Carolyn Bryant, a married white woman. Roy Bryant, Carolyn's husband, and J. W. Milam, her brother-in-law, later abducted Till at gunpoint, tortured and shot him, and dumped his body into the Tallahatchie River. Although the men were charged with murder, both were acquitted by an all-white male jury in Sumner, Mississippi. The two men later profited from the murder by confessing their crimes for pay to Look magazine. Till's murder, which predates Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, was for many the event that led to their initiation into the freedom movement.

Elegies written for Emmett Till approach his murder and memory from a variety of perspectives, but they all share a sense of remorse and anger, albeit at times implicit or contained. Rhoda Gaye Ascher's "Remembrance," published in 1969 in Freedomways, is an excellent example. While the poem's tone is decidedly somber, the third stanza reveals the speaker's frustration, especially at the perceived indifference of the white community. Ascher's poem emphasizes the lack of respect many white Mississippians held for Negro life, even the life of a murdered teenage boy.

Similarly Gwendolyn Brooks conveys her disgust of the murder and subsequent trial in a seemingly restrained, indirect manner in "A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon." Brooks accomplishes this feat by focusing on the interior and domestic life of Carolyn Bryant instead of the death of Emmett Till. Furthermore the violence that occurs in the poem is initiated by Roy Bryant, one of the men responsible for Till's death, but is directed at his wife and children instead of Till.

Nicolás Guillén, the celebrated Cuban poet who in 1961 was named the National Poet of his country, wrote "Elegy for Emmett Till" in 1956, the year following the murder. Guillén directs his frustrations directly at the state of Mississippi and its citizens.

The Mississippians Guillén admonishes are the subject of satirical denial in John Beecher's "The Better Sort of People." Beecher, a distant nephew of the author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, chooses for his narrator an educated, cultured citizen of the Magnolia State who is "against the kind of thing / the ignorant rednecks do" and insists "it was unnecessary / to beat that little Negro boy to death" (lines 19–22). The speaker represents "the better sort of people" of white Mississippi who disapprove of Till's fate at the hands of the lesser sort of murderous white Mississippians.

However, for many, there was little or no distinction between the two classes of Mississippians explored in Beecher's poem. Langston Hughes, for example, makes clear in "Mississippi—1955" that the entire state was viewed as a land of sorrow, pain, blood, and above all else, "terror" (6). Likewise Eve Merriam's blues-influenced poem "Money, Mississippi" describes the town and its inhabitants in a succession of refrains as dirty, bloody, rotten, filthy, and evil (8, 16, 24, 32, 40). Aimé Césaire's "On the State of the Union" does not dichotomize white Mississippians. His poem makes no behavioral or socioeconomic distinctions, but Césaire does employ a similar brand of condemnation.

Remembrance

Broken on the hard sea the dead waves float Downstream. The night cries are gone now. The Moon, Returned from her hiding, lights the faceless rafts Deserted by yesterday's children.

The water lives; its foams combine, tickling The childish face of death no chains can hold Like Grandpa's lather—now, the old days, son, were different— Downstream, delta lips are red, no future here.

The other boy will fish tomorrow, Snag his life on this young log; classify It; green wood, kindling, nigger—and childlike Go and tell his Pa it spoiled his fishing.

Take a rotting log from the circling river, Wear it, piercing your heart, in remembrance.

Rhoda Gaye Ascher, 1969

* * *

The Better Sort Of People

Our Negroes here are satisfied They don't complain about a thing except the weather maybe whenever it's too cold to fish for cat along the riverbank But when they get away from here up to Chicago or Detroit and stay away awhile and then come back with notions about the right to vote or going to school with white folks we sometimes have to get it through their heads who runs this country They're better off down here or why don't they stay up yonder? A lot of them keep coming back but somehow they've been spoiled and need the fear of God thrown into them again Mind you I'm against the kind of thing the ignorant rednecks do I think it was unnecessary to beat that little Negro boy to death and throw his body in the Tallahatchie He was uppity no doubt about it and whistled at a white woman He probably learned that in Chicago so we ought to make allowances A good horsewhipping should have been enough to put him back into his place and been sufficient warning to him that if he ever got fresh again he wouldn't live to see Chicago Those rednecks that abducted him I doubt if even they really meant to kill him when they started working on him They just got too enthusiastic Like I say the better sort of people down here in Mississippi we love our Negroes We wouldn't harm them for the world This violence you hear so much about is all the fault of low-down rednecks poor white trash

John Beecher

A Bronzeville mother loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi mother Burns Bacon.

From the first it had been like a Ballad. It had the beat inevitable. It had the blood. A wildness cut up, and tied in little bunches, Like the four-line stanzas of the ballads she had never quite Understood—the ballads they had set her to, in school.

Herself: the milk-white maid, the "maid mild" Of the ballad. Pursued By the Dark Villain. Rescued by the Fine Prince. The Happiness-Ever-After. That was worth anything. It was good to be a "maid mild." That made the breath go fast.

Her bacon burned. She Hastened to hide it in the step-on can, and Drew more strips from the meat case. The eggs and sour-milk biscuits Did well. She set out a jar Of her new quince preserve.

... But there was something about the matter of the Dark Villain. He should have been older, perhaps. The hacking down of a villain was more fun to think about When his menace possessed undisputed breadth, undisputed height, And a harsh kind of vice. And best of all, when his history was cluttered With the bones of many eaten knights and princesses.

The fun was disturbed, then all but nullified When the Dark Villain was a blackish child Of fourteen, with eyes still too young to be dirty, And a mouth too young to have lost every reminder Of its infant softness. That boy must have been surprised! For These were grown-ups. Grown-ups were supposed to be wise. And the Fine Prince—and that other—so tall, so broad, so Grown! Perhaps the boy had never guessed That the trouble with grown-ups was that under the magnificent shell of adulthood, just under, Waited the baby full of tantrums.

It occurred to her that there may have been something Ridiculous in the picture of the Fine Prince Rushing (rich with breadth and height and Mature solidness whose lack, in the Dark Villain, was impressing her, Confronting her more and more as this first day after the trial And acquittal wore on) rushing With his heavy companion to hack down (unhorsed) That little foe. So much had happened, she could not remember now what that foe had done Against her, or if anything had been done. The one thing in the world that she did know and knew With terrifying clarity was that her composition Had disintegrated. That, although the pattern prevailed, The breaks were everywhere. That she could think Of no thread capable of the necessary Sew-work.

She made the babies sit in their places at the table. Then, before calling Him, she hurried To the mirror with her comb and lipstick. It was necessary To be more beautiful than ever. The beautiful wife. For sometimes she fancied he looked at her as though Measuring her. As if he considered, Had she been worth It? Had she been worth the blood, the cramped cries, the little stuttering bravado, The gradual dulling of those Negro eyes, The sudden, overwhelming little-boyness in that barn? Whatever she might feel or half-feel, the lipstick necessity was something apart. He must never conclude That she had not been worth it.

He sat down, the Fine Prince, and Began buttering a biscuit. He looked at his hands. He twisted in his chair, he scratched his nose. He glanced again, almost secretly, at his hands. More papers were in from the North, he mumbled. More meddling headlines. With their pepper-words, "bestiality," and "barbarism," and "Shocking." The half-sneers he had mastered for the trial worked across His sweet and pretty face.

What he'd like to do, he explained, was kill them all. The time lost. The unwanted fame. Still, it had been fun to show those intruders A thing or two. To show that snappy-eyed mother, That sassy, Northern, brown-black—

Nothing could stop Mississippi. He knew that. Big Fella Knew that. And, what was so good, Mississippi knew that. Nothing and nothing could stop Mississippi. They could send in their petitions, and scar Their newspapers with bleeding headlines. Their governors Could appeal to Washington ...

"What I want," the older baby said, "is 'lasses on my jam." Whereupon the younger baby Picked up the molasses pitcher and threw The molasses in his brother's face. Instantly The Fine Prince leaned across the table and slapped The small and smiling criminal. She did not speak. When the Hand Came down and away, and she could look at her child, At her baby-child, She could think only of blood. Surely her baby's cheek Had disappeared, and in its place, surely, Hung a heaviness, a lengthening red, a red that had no end. She shook her head. It was not true, of course. It was not true at all. The Child's face was as always, the Color of the paste in her paste-jar.

She left the table, to the tune of the children's lamentations, which were shriller Than ever. She Looked out of a window. She said not a word. That Was one of the new Somethings— The fear, Tying her as with iron.

Suddenly she felt his hands upon her. He had followed her To the window. The children were whimpering now. Such bits of tots. And she, their mother, Could not protect them. She looked at her shoulders, still Gripped in the claim of his hands. She tried, but could not resist the idea That a red ooze was seeping, spreading darkly, thickly, slowly, Over her white shoulders, her own shoulders, And over all of Earth and Mars.

He whispered something to her, did the Fine Prince, something About love, something about love and night and intention.

She heard no hoof-beat of the horse and saw no flash of the shining steel.

He pulled her face around to meet His, and there it was, close close, For the first time in all those days and nights. His mouth, wet and red, So very, very, very red, Closed over hers.

Then a sickness heaved within her. The courtroom Coca-Cola, The courtroom beer and hate and sweat and drone, Pushed like a wall against her. She wanted to bear it. But his mouth would not go away and neither would the 130 Decapitated exclamation points in that Other Woman's eyes.

She did not scream. She stood there. But a hatred of him burst into glorious flower, And its perfume enclasped them—big, 135 Bigger than all magnolias.

The last bleak news of the ballad. The rest of the rugged music. The last quatrain.

Gwendolyn Brooks, 1960

* * *

The Last Quatrain Of The Ballad Of Emmett Till AFTER THE MURDER, AFTER THE BURIAL

Emmett's mother is a pretty-faced thing; the tint of pulled taffy. She sits in a red room, drinking black coffee. She kisses her killed boy. And she is sorry. Chaos in windy grays through a red prairie

Gwendolyn Brooks, 1960

ON THE STATE OF THE UNION

I imagine this message in Congress on the State of the Union: situation tragic, left underground only 75 years of iron 50 years worth of sulphur and 20 of bauxite in the heart what? 5 Nothing, zero, mine without ore, cavern in which nothing prowls, of blood not a drop left.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from WORDS OF PROTEST, WORDS OF FREEDOM Copyright © 2012 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Contents

PREFACE....................xiii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS....................xvii
INTRODUCTION Journey toward Freedom....................1
1 "Had she been worth the blood?" THE LYNCHING OF EMMETT TILL, 1955....................15
2 "Godfearing citizens / with Bibles, taunts and stones" THE LITTLE ROCK CRISIS, 1957–1958....................35
3 "The FBI knows who lynched you" THE MURDER OF MACK CHARLES PARKER, 1959....................43
4 "Fearless before the waiting throng" THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MEDGAR EVERS....................51
5 "Under the leaves of hymnals, the plaster and stone" THE SIXTEENTH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH BOMBING, 15 SEPTEMBER 1963....................57
6 "What we have seen / Has become history, tragedy" THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY, 22 NOVEMBER 1963....................71
7 "Deep in the Mississippi thicket / I hear the mourning dove" THE SEARCH FOR JAMES CHANEY, ANDREW GOODMAN, AND MICHAEL SCHWERNER, 1964....................99
8 "We are not beasts and do not / intend to be beaten" RIOTS, REBELLIONS, AND UPRISINGS, 1964–1971....................121
9 "Prophets were ambushed as they spoke" THE ASSASSINATION OF MALCOLM X, 21 FEBRUARY 1965....................155
10 "In the panic of hooves, bull whips and gas" SELMA-TO-MONTGOMERY VOTING RIGHTS MARCH, 1965....................173
11 "Set afire by the cry of / BLACK POWER" THE BIRTH AND LEGACY OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY....................193
12 "America, self-destructive, self-betrayed" THE ASSASSINATION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., 4 APRIL 1968....................215
13 "A gun / Struck, as we slept, a caring public man" THE ASSASSINATION OF ROBERT F. KENNEDY, 5 JUNE 1968....................253
14 "Mighty mountains loom before me and I won't stop now" STRUGGLE, SURVIVAL, AND SUBVERSION DURING THE CIVIL RIGHTS ERA....................273
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY....................317
CONTRIBUTORS....................327
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF COPYRIGHT....................349
INDEX OF AUTHORS AND POEM TITLES....................355
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)