This poetry collection has been a labor of love for its editor, Jeffrey Coleman. In an interview on the Tavis Smiley show in April, Coleman talked about searching for poems related to the Civil Rights movement for a paper he was assigned in graduate school. The project continued from there. The full contents are available on the Duke University Press webpage.
This is a perfect title to highlight during Black History Month or Poetry Month, and a terrific addition to school library collections all year round.
COLEMAN, Jeffrey Lamar, ed. Words of Protest, Words of Freedom: Poetry of the American Civil Rights. 358p. Duke Univ. 2012. Tr $89.95. ISBN 978-0-8223-5092-7; pap. $24.95. ISBN 978-0-8223-5103-0. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–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. Chapters present poems that speak of the lynching of Emmett Till, the murders of famous leaders, and the children killed in 1963 in Birmingham at church. Audre Lord’s 1964 poem, “Suffer the Children,” brings back that terrible day. “We who love them remember their child’s laughter/ But he whose hate robs him of their gold/ has yet to weep at night about their graves.” Outstanding poems are included about the integration of the Little Rock schools, the Black Panther Party, and the race riots in the late 1960s. Julius Lester expresses one sad theme in “Revolutionary Mandate 1.” “These are not the times to take your friends for granted–to assume/that they will always be there. They may not be./And if you wait until the next time to tell them that they are very/ special to you/ You may wait until/someone calls you and says that/so and so’s body was found/ beneath the bricks/of a dynamited building.”–Karlan Sick, formerly at New York Public Library