A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson

By Marilyn Nelson

A Coretta Scott King and Printz honor booklet now in paperback. A Wreath for Emmett until is "A relocating elegy," says The Bulletin.

In 1955 humans all around the usa knew that Emmett Louis until was once a fourteen-year-old African American boy lynched for supposedly whistling at a white girl in Mississippi. The brutality of his homicide, the open-casket funeral held through his mom, Mamie until Mobley, and the acquittal of the lads attempted for the crime drew huge media awareness. In a profound and chilling poem, award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson reminds us of the boy whose destiny helped spark the civil rights move.

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Extra info for A Wreath for Emmett Till

Sample text

Surely you didn't know you would devote the rest of your changed life to dignified public remembrance of how Emmett died, innocence slaughtered by the hands of hate. If sudden loving light proclaimed you blest would you bow your head in humility, your healed heart overflow with gratitude? Would you say yes, like the mother of Christ? Or would you say no to your destiny, mother of a boy martyr, if you could? Mutilated boy martyr, if I could, I'd put you in a parallel universe, give you a better fate.

VII. This sonnet considers the lives Emmett Till might have lived in several parallel universes. Would he have grown up to marry and be a father? Would he have been a great man? Would his memory have been mourned and honored? Would he have died on September 11, 2001, saving people from the monsters who caused so many deaths in the World Trade Center? VIII. The thought of "monsters" leads to the thought of monster movies, in which we identify with the trapped and powerless victims. The "blind girl" described here alludes to the 1967 film Wait Until Dark, which starred Audrey Hepburn as a blind girl trapped in her apartment and terrorized by a psychotic killer.

Like a nation sending its children off to fight our faceless enemy, immortal fear, the most feared enemy of the human race. Like a plague of not knowing wrong from right. Like the consciencelessness of the atmosphere. Like a gouged eye, watching boots kick a face. Like his gouged eye, which watched boots kick his face, we must bear witness to atrocity. But we are whole: We can speak what we see. People may disappear, leaving no trace, unless we stand before the populace, orators denouncing the slavery to fear.

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