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Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America

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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. A 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 worki 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. A 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 from the past as we grapple with contemporary concerns around race, inequality, and social justice. Hamer's ideas and fearless activism reveal how we all, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, ability, economic status, or educational background, have the power to transform society. Born in Webster County, Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977), the youngest of twenty children, was the granddaughter of enslaved people and worked as a sharecropper before dedicating herself to activism. Hamer fought for her community by working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), assisting with Black voter registration, and serving as vice chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Hamer’s 1964 televised speech before the DNC's credentials committee was delivered before millions, and addressed two central issues that remain relevant today: voter suppression and state-sanctioned violence. Hamer described the scare tactics and violence she and other African Americans experienced and their lack of access to the vote. Throughout her life, Hamer fought for Black voting rights, social justice, women's empowerment, human rights and economic rights.


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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. A 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 worki 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. A 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 from the past as we grapple with contemporary concerns around race, inequality, and social justice. Hamer's ideas and fearless activism reveal how we all, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, ability, economic status, or educational background, have the power to transform society. Born in Webster County, Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977), the youngest of twenty children, was the granddaughter of enslaved people and worked as a sharecropper before dedicating herself to activism. Hamer fought for her community by working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), assisting with Black voter registration, and serving as vice chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Hamer’s 1964 televised speech before the DNC's credentials committee was delivered before millions, and addressed two central issues that remain relevant today: voter suppression and state-sanctioned violence. Hamer described the scare tactics and violence she and other African Americans experienced and their lack of access to the vote. Throughout her life, Hamer fought for Black voting rights, social justice, women's empowerment, human rights and economic rights.

30 review for Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America

  1. 4 out of 5

    josie

    genuinely bummed that this otherwise very enjoyable book finished up with a kamala harris epilogue lol

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dee Dee G

    The way Mrs. Hamer spoke about history so straight forward would shut some ignorant people up today. The books shows how passionate she was about human rights and dignity.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Hatch

    Fannie Lou Hamer is one of my top 5 great American heroes. I’m also a big fan of Dr Blain, so I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book’s release. I was not disappointed!! This was the perfect balance of biography with a sprinkling of social commentary. Even though I love reading history and nonfiction, I do not love reading clunky biographies. This was NOT one of those. I flew through this thing. I also loved that Blain ended with a reflection on Hamer’s legacy and her influence on 2021. Beautifu Fannie Lou Hamer is one of my top 5 great American heroes. I’m also a big fan of Dr Blain, so I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book’s release. I was not disappointed!! This was the perfect balance of biography with a sprinkling of social commentary. Even though I love reading history and nonfiction, I do not love reading clunky biographies. This was NOT one of those. I flew through this thing. I also loved that Blain ended with a reflection on Hamer’s legacy and her influence on 2021. Beautifully done. 100% recommend.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    Fannie Lou Hamer was a remarkable woman. This book is not a true biography of her, it is a book inspired by her. While I wish that the author, Keisha Blain would have explored Hamer's life, the outline is here. She was born poor, the youngest of twenty children of two Mississippi sharecroppers who, no matter how hard they worked, could not escape poverty due to the oppressive economic structure of sharecropping. Ms Hamer ended her schooling at age 12 so that she could pick cotton full time. Her Fannie Lou Hamer was a remarkable woman. This book is not a true biography of her, it is a book inspired by her. While I wish that the author, Keisha Blain would have explored Hamer's life, the outline is here. She was born poor, the youngest of twenty children of two Mississippi sharecroppers who, no matter how hard they worked, could not escape poverty due to the oppressive economic structure of sharecropping. Ms Hamer ended her schooling at age 12 so that she could pick cotton full time. Her life changed in 1962 when at age 44 she attended a voter's rights meeting put on by the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Ms Hamer because a tireless champion of voting rights. Her advocacy for voting rights resulted in beatings, one of which left her with injuries that stayed with her for the rest of her life. When she tried to register to vote herself she was forced off the land where she worked and lived. Her advocacy also led to fame, she became the key player in the 1964 Democratic convention's credential fight over the seating of Black delegates. She rejected compromises urged upon her by "leaders" and made an impassioned speech on the floor which still reverberates. A theme of the book is the difference of Hamer's life as a sharecropper from many of the other civil rights leaders, many of whom were college educated. Hamer preferred direct action from local groups along the SNCC model as opposed to top town leadership as seen in the NAACP and Dr King's SCLC. Her perspective is shown by this statement by her quoted in the book "SNCC worked with the people. NAACP didn't work with the people. You know, I used to write membership for the NAACP and they don't care....You see I'm not particular about working with nobody that don't say "yes, sir" to everything to Mr. Charlie and that's all the NAACP does." As I discussed earlier, this is a book inspired by Fannie Lou Hamer not simply about her. It includes many commentaries about current events that of course Ms Hamer would not know about. But there is welcome recognition for a remarkable women who inspired so many and continues to inspire

  5. 4 out of 5

    WritingReadingSoul

    My book club members and I finished our last of 2021--Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America by Dr. Keisha Blaine. To say that Fannie Lou Hamer was a game changer is an understatement. She was more like a stalwart crusader in the fight for racial justice and equity; human rights; voting rights; and women's rights. Hamer had a profound effect on America of the sixties and seventies even though she, herself, faced medical apartheid, a sixth grade education, losing loved ones My book club members and I finished our last of 2021--Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America by Dr. Keisha Blaine. To say that Fannie Lou Hamer was a game changer is an understatement. She was more like a stalwart crusader in the fight for racial justice and equity; human rights; voting rights; and women's rights. Hamer had a profound effect on America of the sixties and seventies even though she, herself, faced medical apartheid, a sixth grade education, losing loved ones to malnutrition, and the despicable outcomes of sharecropping on land that did not belong to her. She persevered with a loving hushand who supported her front-and-center life. The likes of Malcolm X, Lyndon B. Johnson, June Jordan, Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Holmes Norton, Roy Wilkins, Hubert Humphrey, Shirley Chisholm, Jackie Robinson and so many others crossed paths with her and "spoke her name." However, history books haven't favored Hamer's contributions to the American landscape. No surprise there. Dr. Blaine's research captures Hamer's vision for humanity, her family ife, her liberated wit, and how Hamer's shoulders raise up women of today who continue the fight to dismantle institutional racism and help create the America that exists on paper. I highly recommend this biography for yourself and others. Pass on the knowledge about an incredible Black woman whom few of us know about.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ashlyn Bell

    Dr. Keisha Blain is an amazing writer. She provides a clear and concise story of the great Fannie Lou Hamer's life. Throughout Until I am Free, the reader sees how much of what we are experiencing today are similar to the injustices Mrs. Hamer had to face. However, it does not leave the reader feeling hopeless. Dr. Blain gives countless examples of how Mrs. Hamer was dedicated to the mission of raising the quality of life for all people negatively impacted by the system. My introduction to Fanni Dr. Keisha Blain is an amazing writer. She provides a clear and concise story of the great Fannie Lou Hamer's life. Throughout Until I am Free, the reader sees how much of what we are experiencing today are similar to the injustices Mrs. Hamer had to face. However, it does not leave the reader feeling hopeless. Dr. Blain gives countless examples of how Mrs. Hamer was dedicated to the mission of raising the quality of life for all people negatively impacted by the system. My introduction to Fannie Lou Hamer was a portion of her famous quote, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." But after reading Until I am Free, I have a greater understanding of the lasting impact she had on our fight for freedom. Until her last day she gave so much of herself. I only hope we continue to cary on her legacy of community and action. I highly recommend this book!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tashay

    3.5. Fannie Lou Hamer is truly incredible and I was heavily inspired by her development of the Freedom Farm. Overall this book was okay, a bit redundant at times and a little dry.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rosa

    Actual rating - 3.75 A short biography of Fannie Lou Hamer and how her work is relevant today. Lots of speech excepts and information about her political and freedom work. There is also little known information about her personal and family life, of which I wanted to know more. Overall, a interesting and informative book. Glad I read it!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alisa

    Very readable overview of an important woman’s achievements.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Anyone who believes in civil rights for all, anyone who is truly their brother’s keeper, and anyone who understands that certain things should never be sugarcoated should know this woman, Fannie Lou Hamer!! She should be taught in our schools, made mention of by parents to children, and her philosophy and work should be studied and used as a roadmap. When speaking on the intersectionality of the national anthem and the terror & constant threat of state sanctioned violence against blacks in Ameri Anyone who believes in civil rights for all, anyone who is truly their brother’s keeper, and anyone who understands that certain things should never be sugarcoated should know this woman, Fannie Lou Hamer!! She should be taught in our schools, made mention of by parents to children, and her philosophy and work should be studied and used as a roadmap. When speaking on the intersectionality of the national anthem and the terror & constant threat of state sanctioned violence against blacks in America she said, it’s the “land of the tree and home of the grave.” She kept it really real, and her life was one of faith in ACTION.” Prayer alone gets nothing done. ❤️ this book!! and I wish more Americans knew about this American hero.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joe Hall

    THE BLACKMAN READ ALOUD HOUR PROJECT HIGHLY RECOMMENDS this book although Fannie Lou Hamer may have passed in 1977 her indomitable spirit comes alive in Keisha Blain’s new release. I have read numerous articles about the life of Mrs Hamer but this engages her like no other.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David

    Thank you to Beacon Press,, Keisha N. Blain,, and Goodreads for the copy of this book from a giveaway. I read this back in October and wasn't sure how I felt about it. I reread it November to December to try and figure out how I feel. I really did enjoy it's message and the information about Fannie Lou Hamer. I was anticipating more about Hamer and direct discussions of how she viewed voting and race relations than what was present. Each chapter, excluding the first, has an opening with a partic Thank you to Beacon Press,, Keisha N. Blain,, and Goodreads for the copy of this book from a giveaway. I read this back in October and wasn't sure how I felt about it. I reread it November to December to try and figure out how I feel. I really did enjoy it's message and the information about Fannie Lou Hamer. I was anticipating more about Hamer and direct discussions of how she viewed voting and race relations than what was present. Each chapter, excluding the first, has an opening with a particular instance of an African American woman experiencing state sanctioned violence and discrimination and racism, sometimes death. It allowed for parallels between Hamer's time and the present, which were appreciated and kept Hamer's words fresh as if said today and not 50/60 years ago. I first came across Fannie Lou Hamer in a manner similar to the author. The author states she first learned of Hamer in a college course during the Spring 2008 term as a Senior at Binghamton. I first learned of Hamer in the Fall 2008 term as a Senior at Cornell. (Both are in upstate New York just a few hours from each other.) Like Blain, I have had a fascination with Hamer since first learning about her in a class on the history of the American worker 1960 to today. My hesitations in rating this book include a bit of over repetition of the conclusions of Hamer's beliefs with no mew evidence shared between stating her beliefs. Also, and I don't hold this against the book at all, I wish that some of Hamer's speeches would have been included in full for some easy reference and to strengthen the arguments of the book. Overall, I did really enjoy this book's examination of who Fannie Lou Hamer was, what she did and stood for, and what lessons we should learn and carry on to honor and further her work. It is important to remember and know of the main figures of the Civil Rights Movement beyond Dr. King and Malcolm X and the other heterosexual men who were front and center in the movement and our textbooks. There were women and LGBTQ+ people who were there seeking racial justice as well as gender and sexual orientation justice before Women's Liberation in the 1970s and Stonewall in 1969. Blain brings life and immediacy to Hamer and her philosophies, her beliefs and ideology. By examining the private biography and the public works, Blain fills in the picture of Fannie Lou Hamer that once sparked my interest. Blain has done a fine job illuminating a voice that has been more-or-less silenced but which still echoes in today's social movements and political discourse.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ke

    Alert 🚨 Alert 🚨 I’ve read a nonfiction book!!! And it’s not a memoir 😮 First and foremost Thank you to @rtwilliams16 and just being part of @blackreaderscon and the people who have joined us on lives and giving me mess for my non- nonfiction reading self. ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I started this book after midnight stayed up until about 3am and finished later the same day. I am not keen on hearing our trauma and trials although I see why it is necessary. The way Ms. Blaine lovingly and reverently wrote about Fan Alert 🚨 Alert 🚨 I’ve read a nonfiction book!!! And it’s not a memoir 😮 First and foremost Thank you to @rtwilliams16 and just being part of @blackreaderscon and the people who have joined us on lives and giving me mess for my non- nonfiction reading self. ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I started this book after midnight stayed up until about 3am and finished later the same day. I am not keen on hearing our trauma and trials although I see why it is necessary. The way Ms. Blaine lovingly and reverently wrote about Fannie Lou Hamer is amazing. I’ve heard the name Fannie Lou Hamer before but without context to who she was or what she has done. How we are not taught about her in all schools is a disgusting shame. I’m in awe of Ms. Hamer’s strength, perseverance yet gut punched and wanting to cry and scream by the atrocities she endured simply because she was poor and black in the Jim Crow south. All those who abused her physically abused her and that doctor who did one of the most heinous things you can do to a woman I hope you are burning slow roasting over a fire in hell for eternity. Ms. Hamer became an activist at 44 years old and passed away at 59 years old and in this short time the work she did is still felt. I was in chills from the the beginning of the book simply with her concept of “Until I am Free in Mississippi, no white person or other person is free anywhere else” this is a loose quote but the association that if we are disenfranchising anyone we all are shackled by injustices. My emotions are everywhere after reading this book but I have no regrets, read this book! And remember our unsung hero Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    I knew very little about Fannie Lou Hamer so I was excited to get Dr. Blain's book. It is an excellent biography of the activist, detailing her poor upbringing in Mississippi to her activism in the Civil Rights Movement. It is a book of struggle and Dr. Blain connects Hamer's struggle and words then with the struggle that still exists today. Hamer knew that access to the ballot in the 1960s was key. The ability to marshal a population to vote out people they did not want in office was attractive I knew very little about Fannie Lou Hamer so I was excited to get Dr. Blain's book. It is an excellent biography of the activist, detailing her poor upbringing in Mississippi to her activism in the Civil Rights Movement. It is a book of struggle and Dr. Blain connects Hamer's struggle and words then with the struggle that still exists today. Hamer knew that access to the ballot in the 1960s was key. The ability to marshal a population to vote out people they did not want in office was attractive to her. Reading this history is a fresh reminder of how access is being restricted all over again in today's poisonous culture. The book relates Hamer's struggle with current issues, demonstrating that there is still a lot of work to do in the area of civil rights. It is well sourced (30 pages of source notes) and well written.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Wow, wow, wow! Fannie Lou Hamer was an amazing woman, and one we don’t hear nearly enough about. And in Dr. Blain, she has the biographer she deserves. Blain clearly outlines how Hamer’s activism influenced the work of those who who follow in her footsteps. And the direct, accessible prose paints a portrait of a woman who used her Christian faith to inform her action on behalf of the poor and marginalized. Americans need to know more about Fannie Lou Hamer, and this book is a great place to star Wow, wow, wow! Fannie Lou Hamer was an amazing woman, and one we don’t hear nearly enough about. And in Dr. Blain, she has the biographer she deserves. Blain clearly outlines how Hamer’s activism influenced the work of those who who follow in her footsteps. And the direct, accessible prose paints a portrait of a woman who used her Christian faith to inform her action on behalf of the poor and marginalized. Americans need to know more about Fannie Lou Hamer, and this book is a great place to start.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bill O'driscoll

    Fine, concise book by historian Blain that reclaims the legacy of Hamer, a key civil-rights activist whose memory is often overshadowed. Born into a sharecropping family in Mississippi, she was still a sharecropper when, past age 40, she became a voting-rights activist, and quickly rose to national prominence. The book tells her story in detail and explores her contemporaneous influence as well as how her thinking and strategies -- from grass-roots organizing to an understanding of what we'd now Fine, concise book by historian Blain that reclaims the legacy of Hamer, a key civil-rights activist whose memory is often overshadowed. Born into a sharecropping family in Mississippi, she was still a sharecropper when, past age 40, she became a voting-rights activist, and quickly rose to national prominence. The book tells her story in detail and explores her contemporaneous influence as well as how her thinking and strategies -- from grass-roots organizing to an understanding of what we'd now call "intersectionality" -- anticipated today's social-justice movements.

  17. 4 out of 5

    MG

    UNTIL I AM FREE works as an introduction to the amazing Southern social activist Fannie Lou Hamer, which I needed and enjoyed. I was a bit disappointed at how little of the book dealt in any depth with the details of her life--focus instead on what her lasting contribution is. Still, I enjoyed the book and getting to know such an important figure, but I suspect there are better biographies out there.

  18. 4 out of 5

    S.E. Morigan

    This was my introduction to Fannie Lou Hamer, and Blain does a great job of finding the parallels between her work in the 60s and 70s and the work of activists today. Not that Hamer's influence needs framing, as reading about her story makes it clear the impact that she had on the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, but it sends a powerful message that over half a century later, the same types of battles are being fought for human rights. This was my introduction to Fannie Lou Hamer, and Blain does a great job of finding the parallels between her work in the 60s and 70s and the work of activists today. Not that Hamer's influence needs framing, as reading about her story makes it clear the impact that she had on the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, but it sends a powerful message that over half a century later, the same types of battles are being fought for human rights.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This was one of my most anticipated books of the year because I love Fannie Lou Hamer, but I think I would have liked it a lot more without the social commentary. I feel like anyone reading this could make the connections with what happened in Hamer’s life to things happening today, we don’t need it spelled out for us.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lee Behlman

    The biographical and historical material on Fannie Lou Hamer is fascinating- and it’s what I came to the book for. But the writing is often pedestrian, almost like a school report or a reporter’s clip job. I’d like to read a fuller biography of Hamer and her work with SNCC. To be fair, that’s not what Blain is attempting here.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This was a quick, easy read/introduction to Fannie Lou Hamer. I especially appreciated how she believed in local leaders advocating for the needs of their communities. Her life was a great example of matching her deep religious faith with concrete action.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    What a life. What a legacy. What a woman! I went into this knowing very little about Hamer's life and learned so much. It's incredible what she accomplished in such a relatively short period of time, and how many people she's inspired since. What a life. What a legacy. What a woman! I went into this knowing very little about Hamer's life and learned so much. It's incredible what she accomplished in such a relatively short period of time, and how many people she's inspired since.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This was a well written book about a hardworking, selfless woman whose name everyone should know. My only criticism is that sometimes the same stories would be told again in different chapters, was a bit repetitive.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Wow! What an incredible woman with an inspiring story. Well told and succinct.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ernestine Allen

    There are only 138 pages!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Richelle

  27. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bart Kennedy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jen Albright

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