Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

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

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

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

Article excerpt

Words of Protest, Words of Freedom: Poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era. Edited by Jeffrey Lamar Coleman. (Durham, N.C., and London: Duke University Press, 2012. Pp. [xviii], 358. Paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8223-5103-0; cloth, $89.95, ISBN 978-0-8223-5092-7.) Jeffrey Lamar Coleman's twenty-year labor of love fills an unsettling gap: Words of Protest, Words of Freedom: Poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era is the first collection of poetry that emerged from the context of post-1954 civil rights struggles. After a brief introduction to the anthology, Coleman opens each of his fourteen chapters with a succinct summary of the narrative foci (for example, the first chapter highlights poetry that was written in response to the lynching of Emmett Till, and the fifth chapter presents the work of poets who were devastated by the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama). Genius bards like Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni appear alongside the poetic protests of those who are known more for their prophetic voices outside the crafting of poetry, such as Huey P. Newton and Maria Varela. As such, the one hundred poets whose work is published here reflect the diversity of those who engaged in civil rights struggles and highlight the ways that, despite their different backgrounds, these writers all understood the power of the pen and art to communicate grievances, admonitions, scathing critiques, and liberatory battle cries. …

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