James Andrew Emanuel, the fifth of seven children, was born in Alliance, Nebraska, to Cora Ann Mance and Alfred A. Emanuel, a farmer and railroad worker. Early on, Emanuel’s parents instilled a love of language and narrative in him. He read widely, and by junior high school, he was writing detective stories and poetry. In 1939, he graduated high school and was named the class valedictorian. He took a job in Washington, D.C., as the confidential secretary to General Benjamin O. Davis, assistant inspector general of the War Department in the United States Army, and he later joined the United States Army, where he served as a staff sergeant with the Ninety-third Infantry Division in the Pacific. After World War II, he enrolled in Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a B.A. degree. In 1950, he married Mattie Etha Johnson, whom he met after moving to Chicago, where he had begun attending Northwestern University and working as a civilian chief in the preinduction section of the Army and Air Force Induction Station. The couple had one child, James, Jr., who committed suicide in 1983. The couple was divorced in 1974. After earning an M.A. in 1953, Emanuel moved to New York and enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Columbia University. He earned the degree in 1962. Emanuel became an assistant professor at the City College of New York in 1962, where he would teach until 1984.
Emanuel’s early work was published in college journals, but in 1958, his...
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