Poetry Sunday: Emmett Till

James A. Emanuel, an African-American poet who created poetry out of the scourge of racism, died on September 27 at the age of 92. His death was announced last week.
His poetry has been somewhat neglected, at least in his native country, possibly because he spent much of his long life living in Europe. At the time of his death, he lived in Paris. In addition to his work as a poet, he had served as a professor of English at the University of Grenoble and the University of Toulouse, among others.

Perhaps another reason for the neglect of his poetry is that he never bothered with the trends of the moment or with political correctness. But his poetry about the evils of racism was heart-felt and powerful. Here's one that speaks to me particularly, for many reasons.

Emmett Till *

by James A. 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.

* In 1955, Till, a fourteen-year-old from Chicago, for
allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi, was murdered
by white men who tied a gin mill fan around his neck and threw his
body into the Tallahatchie River. 


  1. I had never heard of James A. Emanuel so thank you for sharing his work! I am intrigued by him and his work now :) This poem that you selected is poetically superb. I loved it!

    1. So glad you enjoyed it. I think Emanuel is not well known in this country and that is a shame.


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