Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Wreath for Emmett Till

Nelson, Marilyn. 2005. A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL. Ill. by Philippe Lardy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618397523 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

Emmett Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy who was lynched in Mississippi for supposedly whistling at a white woman. Although a trial ensued, his killers were freed. Marilyn Nelson pays homage to a young man who reminds us all of the struggles that took place for racial equality.

“Rosemary for remembrance, Shakespeare wrote.
If I could forget, believe me, I would.
Pierced by the screams of a shortened childhood.”

In this powerful and vivid poem, readers are introduced to Emmett Till through the use of a heroic crown of sonnets in a Petrarchan rhyme scheme. In this capacity, the 15 sonnets are comprised in a sequence in which the last line of one poem becomes the first line of the next. The 15th sonnet is made up entirely of the first lines of the other 14. The formal presentation of the poem allows readers to reflect on the events and bring honor to a life that was abruptly ended. The illustrations mirror the represented use of nature in the poem. These images offer an emotional quality that resonant in the use of color. From the wreath of thorns to the blood soaked roots, the imagery is dramatic and symbolic. The raw power of the poem will have readers crying for justice all over again.

Readers can interview a parent, relative, or friend who may have lived during the time of the civil rights movement and present their findings in the form of a research paper, play, poem, or speech.

Other books about Emmett Till and racial injustice:
Crowe, Chris. GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER. ISBN 0803728042
Till-Mobley, Mamie. DEATH OF INNOCENCE. ISBN 0812970470

By Aundrea L. Wright

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