On the Lived Theology Reading List: Words of Protest, Words of Freedom

Words of Protest, Words of Freedom: Poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era, edited by Jeffrey Lamar ColemanPoetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era

There are many ways to address and record the flood of emotions that come during revolutionary times. One of the best of those ways is poetry, which can express fear, sorrow, and triumph all at once. Words of Protest, Words of Freedom is the first comprehensive collection of poems written during and in response to the American civil rights struggle, collected and edited by Jeffrey Lamar Coleman. This book features both famous and non-famous poets alike, mixing in works by Maya Angelou and Allen Ginsberg with those by activists and ordinary citizens.

Some of the poems are direct responses to events that happened during the civil rights movement, while others encapsulate the general feeling of anticipation and turmoil that gripped the nation at the time. No subject is too big or too small to be included, and poets highlighted events such as the integration of the Little Rock schools, as well as people like Malcolm X. Including more than 150 poems, this anthology highlights the tremendous symbolic reach of the civil rights movement within and beyond the United States.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

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

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.” — Karlan Sick, School Library Journal

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