Until I am free Fannie Lou Hamer's enduring message to America

Keisha N. Blain, 1985-

Book - 2021

"Until I Am Free explores the political ideas and philosophies of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer"--

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BIOGRAPHY/Hamer, Fannie Lou
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Boston : Beacon Press [2021]
Physical Description
xix, 181 pages, 4 unnumbered pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Keisha N. Blain, 1985- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Born into a sharecropping family in Mississippi in 1917, Fannie Lou Hamer became a civil rights activist after learning she possessed the legal right to vote. Over the course of her life, she was a tireless advocate for the rights of poor and working class Black southerners, famously saying, "Nobody's free until everybody's free." History professor Blain (Set the World on Fire, 2018) explores Hamer's early life, burgeoning political activism, and impact on the civil rights movement in this vivid, passionate biography. Driven by her strong Christian faith and deep sense of justice, Hamer demanded that her fellow Black activists, the Democratic Party, and the U.S. as a whole make space for the voices of people like her. Over the course of her career, she traveled to Africa, ran for Senate against the infamously racist James Eastland of Mississippi, and founded a farming cooperative and "pig bank" to boost the economic power of poor Black Mississippians. Although Blain occasionally neglects to situate Hamer's ideas in the broader context of her time, the author's rightful and infectious admiration of Hamer shines through on every page. Until I Am Free is a must-have for readers interested in American history and civil rights activism. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Blain (history, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Set the World on Fire; Four Hundred Souls) blends biography with intellectual history to discuss Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–77), her instrumental civil rights activism, and her influence which resounds in the 21st century. Hamer was a grassroots organizer who came from a sharecropping background in Mississippi. Her main civil rights concerns were voter suppression and police brutality—the same battles being fought by contemporary Black Lives Matter activists. Blain uses extensive primary sources (including excerpts from Hamer's speeches, and accounts of her experiences of sexual assault and medical trauma) to illustrate how Hamer "turned her pain into political action." Blain effectively conveys the racism and sexism Hamer faced in her fight for equality and liberation and shows how it impacted her relationships to both the civil rights movement and the women's liberation movement; she also establishes the modernity and contemporary relevance of Hamer's proto-intersectional politics (Kimberlé Crenshaw would coin "intersectionality" in 1989). VERDICT This excellent introduction to Hamer and her life is well-contextualized; recommended for all readers.—Maria Bagshaw, Elgin Community Coll. Lib., IL Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Until I Am Free explores the political ideas and philosophies of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Blending together social commentary, biography and history, an award-winning historian challenges us to listen to Fannie Lou Hamer, a working-poor and disabled Black woman activist and intellectual of the civil rights movement, as we grapple with modern concerns around race, inequality and social justice.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

National Book Critics Circle 2021 Biography Finalist53rd NAACP Image Award Nominee: Outstanding Literary Work - Biography/Autobiography“[A] riveting and timely exploration of Hamer’s life. . . . Brilliantly constructed to be both forward and backward looking, Blain’s book functions simultaneously as a much needed history lesson and an indispensable guide for modern activists.”—New York Times Book ReviewMs. Magazine “Most Anticipated Reads for the Rest of Us – 2021” · KIRKUS STARRED REVIEW · BOOKLIST STARRED REVIEW · Publishers Weekly Big Indie Books of Fall 2021 Explores the Black activist’s ideas and political strategies, highlighting their relevance for tackling modern social issues including voter suppression, police violence, and economic inequality.“We have a long fight and this fight is not mine alone, but you are not free whether you are white or black, until I am free.”—Fannie Lou HamerA blend of social commentary, biography, and intellectual history, Until I Am Free is a manifesto for anyone committed to social justice. The book challenges us to listen to a working-poor and disabled Black woman activist and intellectual of the civil rights movement as we grapple with contemporary concerns around race, inequality, and social justice.Award-winning historian and New York Times best-selling author Keisha N. Blain situates Fannie Lou Hamer as a key political thinker alongside leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks and demonstrates how her ideas remain salient for a new generation of activists committed to dismantling systems of oppression in the United States and across the globe.Despite her limited material resources and the myriad challenges she endured as a Black woman living in poverty in Mississippi, Hamer committed herself to making a difference in the lives of others. She refused to be sidelined in the movement and refused to be intimidated by those of higher social status and with better jobs and education. In these pages, Hamer’s words and ideas take center stage, allowing us all to hear the activist’s voice and deeply engage her words, as though we had the privilege to sit right beside her.More than 40 years since Hamer’s death in 1977, her words still speak truth to power, laying bare the faults in American society and offering valuable insights on how we might yet continue the fight to help the nation live up to its core ideals of “equality and justice for all.”Includes a photo insert featuring Hamer at civil rights marches, participating in the Democratic National Convention, testifying before Congress, and more.