Poem: “Emmett Till” by James Emanuel

0 Posted by - February 15, 2024 - BLACK ART & LITERATURE, Black History, BLACK MEN, LATEST POSTS

James Emanuel was a poet and scholar from Alliance, Nebraska. Emanuel, who is ranked by some critics as one of the best and most neglected poets of the 20th century, published more than 300 poems, 13 individual books, an influential anthology of African American literature, an autobiography, and more. He is also credited with creating a new literary genre, jazz-and-blues haiku.

Emanuel was born in Nebraska in 1921, Emanuel was raised in the state. He spent his early years in the western United States where he worked at a variety of jobs. At age twenty he joined the United States Army and served as confidential secretary to the Assistant Inspector General of the U.S. Army Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.

After his discharge from the army, he did his undergraduate work at Howard University and obtained graduate degrees from Northwestern University (M.A.) and Columbia University (Ph.D.). He then moved to New York city where he taught at the City College of New York (CUNY), where in the 1960s he taught the college’s first class on African-American poetry and mentored future scholars such as Addison Gayle Jr.

Emanuel was a published poet, scholar, and critic. As a poet, Emanuel published more than 300 poems and 13 individual books. Emanuel has been called one of the best, and most overlooked, poets of his time.

Critics have put forward several reasons for Emanuel’s poetry being neglected by the larger literary world, including the fact that Emanuel wrote more traditional poetic forms, that he left the United States, and the fact that he refused to take part in the politically correct world of Black academia. Emanuel is also credited with creating a new literary genre, jazz-and-blues haiku, which he has read to musical accompaniment throughout Europe and Africa. Emanuel died on September 28, 2013, he was 92.


Emmett Till

by James Emanuel

I hear a whistling
Through the water.
Little Emmett
Won’t be still.
He keeps floating
Round the darkness,
Edging through
The silent chill.
Tell me, please,
That bedtime story
Of the fairy
River Boy
Who swims forever,
Deep in treasures,
Necklaced in
A coral toy.




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