What is "From the Emigrants" by Kamau Brathwaite?


Quick Answer

"From the Emigrants" by Kamau Braithwaite is a poem written in free verse style. It describes the experience of black emigrants from Braithwaite's native Barbados to the predominantly communities of the United States and United Kingdom.

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Full Answer

The seven stanzas of the poem progress chronologically from "The Emigrants ... on the sea-port quays" who "do not know why ... or where they are going" to their discovery that the land they thought would be "gleaming golden" with possibility was made of "iron claws ... mouldy dredges that do not care" and laments that the city has "forgotten human sound." The poem ends by describing the discrimination faced by black immigrants and the ways which the community could cope, turning to black pride or Islam as distinctive markers of identity.

Braithwaite went to college in Barbados and the United Kingdom, earning a Ph.D. from the University of Sussex in 1968. His poetry explores the development of black Caribbean culture and features a distinctive voice that blends standard English with phrases and patterns from the African tradition of the West Indies.

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