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Summary

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 Hamer)

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 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 this book, 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”.

©2021 Keisha N. Blain (P)2021 Beacon Press

Critic reviews

“Dr. Keisha Blain’s beautiful prose and infectious passion for uncovering our historical roots tells Hamer’s amazing life story. If America truly respected its own roots, they would see a ‘Fannie Lou Hamer’ defending the US Constitution to include ‘We the People’. Dr. Blain unveils Hamer’s leadership in this historical documentation, once again demonstrating that when Black women sit down and demand a seat on the bus or simply get let into the room, we spend the next generation demanding a seat at the table. Until I Am Free allows the reader to see a long part of the political and cultural lines from Fannie Lou Hamer to Vice President Kamala Harris.” (Donna Brazile, former chair of the Democratic National Committee)

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  • Alise Moss Vetica
  • 22-10-21

She was a force and power house

Fannie Lou we need you now telling it like is! WOW! It's unfortunate too few know of her. She served her country well.

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  • S. Hagberg
  • 17-10-21

Must read for allies.

Dr. Keisha N. Blaine exercises her formidable talents as an historian and writer here. Will be in the pantheon of great books of our time, with "Stamped at Birth.." and "Caste..." I thought I knew the basic story, but the details, especially with regard to Ms. Hamer's experiences with feminist and global intersectionality were particularly instructive. Do yourself a favor and read this.