This little light of mine The life of Fannie Lou Hamer

Kay Mills

Book - 2007

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BIOGRAPHY/Hamer, Fannie Lou
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Lexington : University Press of Kentucky c2007.
Main Author
Kay Mills (-)
Item Description
Originally published: New York : Plume, 1994.
Physical Description
xxii, 390 p., [12] p. of plates : ill., map ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Journalists Mills and Nelson explore two of the more fascinating aspects of the Magnolia State's civil rights struggle in the 1960s.For many Americans who encountered her in person or on television, Hamer was a symbol of the dignity, strength, and humanity of the southern African Americans who took on Jim Crow in the 1950s and 1960s. Mills' well-documented and thorough biography describes the "alchemy of inborn intelligence, deep spirituality, strong parents, love of country, and a sharecropper's gutty instincts for survival" that prepared Hamer for the time "when a movement came to Mississippi that could match her mountainous talents." Hamer was already 44 when speeches by James Bevel and James Farmer convinced her to attempt to register to vote in 1962. She spent the rest of her life working, in one way or another, for civil (and human) rights. Best known for political activism, Hamer was also involved in Head Start, in opposition to the Vietnam War, in the cooperative farm movement, in work to improve Mississippi's educational and prison systems, and in the National Women's Political Caucus. Her epitaph--"Sick and tired of being sick and tired"--stands as a counsel of commitment, perseverance, and hope more than a decade after her death in 1977.Nelson's focus is narrower, but the question he raises is a troubling one: Just how far is society entitled to go to protect itself from terrorist violence? Nelson, now Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, was covering the South and the civil rights movement in 1967, when the Klan began to target Mississippi's small Jewish community for bombings, and also in 1968. That year an elementary school teacher whose Klan role was unsuspected was killed in Meridian, Mississippi, in a confrontation with the FBI. The teacher's companion, the top Klan hit man in the state, was injured, as well. By 1970, Nelson had accumulated solid evidence that the Meridian clash was an ambush (part of the FBI's COINTELPRO efforts against the Klan), and that the Jewish community had provided funds to pay off the informants who set up Tom Tarrants and (by mistake) Kathy Ainsworth for the trap. Writing the story in 1970 lifted Nelson to the top of J. Edgar Hoover's enemies list and brought bruising pressure to bear on his editors. Twenty years later, using additional research and interviews, Nelson offers textured profiles of the players in this deadly cat-and-mouse game, accessible analysis of Mississippi's social structure in the late 1960s' and, in an epilogue, interesting "Where are they now?" follow-ups. Terror in the Night forces readers to revalue the competing claims of life and liberty, security and justice. ~--Mary Carroll

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

An unlettered Mississippi cotton-picker, Fannie Lou Hamer (1918-1977) led the black Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic Convention and was, to many in the civil rights movement, ``the most inspirational person they ever knew.'' In this thorough, sensitive biography, Mills ( A Place in the News ) shows Hamer inspired by her mother and her faith, propelled by anger at her unbidden sterilization and sustained by deeply spiritual, invoking songs, like the one that serves as this book's title. Drawing on published sources and interviews with principals, Mills reconstructs the efforts of civil rights activists to register fearful rural voters, depicts how Hamer shifted ``from private outrage to public person'' and describes how her politics evolved to include social reconstruction. Mills doesn't ignore complexities: she details controversies over Hamer's role in a local Mississippi Head Start program and in a race for Democratic national committeewoman and indicates that certain middle-class blacks were alienated from her. The book emphasizes Hamer's public life more than her private one; Mills notes that Hamer rarely spoke about her family. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Hamer was a poor, uneducated Southern black woman who was literally treated worse than her employer's dog. When the Civil Rights Movement flowered in the early 1960s, Hamer exclaimed she was "sick and tired of being sick and tired" (she has coined this phrase) and took action. She started many programs to help the poor gain better housing and job training, founded the National Women's Political Caucus, was the first black delegate at a national political convention since Reconstruction, and much, much more. Although not as well known as other Civil Rights figures, Hamer did as much for that cause as anyone. This edition of Mills's 1994 biography contains a new foreword by children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman. A solid addition for biography, civil rights, and African American studies collections in public and academic libraries. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

YA-A biography that captures the pain, sorrow, and joy of a spirited woman who fought for basic human rights. Born into a black sharecroppers' family in rural Mississippi, Hamer was always reaching out; as a child she would hop off a truck to retrieve a scrap of paper so she would have something to read. Undeterred by the threat of personal injury and the loss of her job, she organized and encouraged members of her race to register to vote. Mills chronicles Hamer's life and her resilience in the face of setbacks, showing how her indomitable light continues to shine.- Mary I. Quinn, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

From former Los Angeles Times editorial writer Mills (A Place in the News, 1988)--a biography more fulsome than definitive of civil-rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. The 20th child of dirt-poor black Mississippi sharecroppers, and with little schooling, Hamer was an unlikely candidate for greatness--but in the late 60's and early 70's, she came to symbolize black efforts to achieve full political and economical participation in the South. In 1962, the 44-year-old Hamer attended a meeting of the Freedom Riders--a meeting that, aimed at organizing black voter registration, would lead to her addressing the Democratic Convention, to national awards, and to invitations to the White House--as well as to jail and a severe beating. Deeply religious and known for her powerful singing (the book's title comes from her favorite freedom song), Hamer challenged the seating of the all-white Mississippi delegation at the 1964 Democratic Convention and the legitimacy of Mississippi's congressional representatives; continued to register voters; ran for Congress against segregationist stalwarts; and called for an end to poverty. Ensuing civil-rights legislation vindicated her efforts, but, by the early 70's, her radicalism--she was against the Vietnam War and favored land redistribution--had alienated many of her supporters. She was, however, as Andrew Young eulogized at her funeral, a woman ``who had the nerve to shake the foundations of this nation.'' Understandably partisan, though a more objective assessment would better serve the indomitable Fannie. Still: a useful reminder of a not-so-distant past, as well as a--perhaps unintentional- -primer on the realities of fame and politics. (Photos--16 pp. b&w- -not seen.)

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.