James A. Emanuel was born in Alliance, Nebraska on June 15, 1921. He served in the Army from 1942 to 1946 and spent two years as the secretary to General Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the Army's first black general. He received a bachelor's degree from Howard University in 1950, a master's degree from Northwestern in 1953, and a doctorate in English and comparative literature from Columbia. He taught at City College, starting as an English instructor in 1957 and retiring as a professor in 1983. His first book, Langston Hughes, was published in 1967. In 1968, he co-edited Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America with Theodore L. Gross. He published several books of poetry including The Treehouse and Other Poems, Black Man Abroad, Whole Grain: Collected Poems, 1958-1989, and The Force and the Reckoning. He moved to France in the 1980's after the death of his son in part because of his frustration with racism in the United States. He died on September 28, 2013 at the age of 92.