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.

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Product Code: 5881
ISBN: 9780807061503
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Beacon Press
Published Date: 10/05/2021
Pages: 200
Availability: Not currently available.
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Price: $24.95

“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 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.


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“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

“Keisha Blain brings Fannie Lou Hamer and her fight for liberation to life in the exhilarating Until I Am Free. Alight with curiosity and passion, Blain’s view of Hamer is both intimate and political, exquisitely sensitive to the challenges faced by a Black woman sharecropper whose body was too often the site of white supremacist, misogynist violence, and whose revolutionary story has too rarely been framed as such. Until I Am Free corrects that omission and will be an invaluable resource for generations to come.” —Rebecca Traister, author of Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger

“We all know Fannie Lou Hamer, the courageous civil rights icon who survived white violence and stood up to Lyndon B. Johnson and the Democratic Party. Keisha Blain’s magnificent Until I Am Free introduces us to Hamer the political thinker, the strategist and theorist, the internationalist whose expansive vision of freedom embraced the oppressed everywhere. A pathbreaking contribution to our history and a precious guide for today’s activists fighting for the world Hamer envisioned.” —Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

“With elegant, passionate, and powerful prose, award-winning historian Keisha Blain weaves together the political and intellectual legacy of Mississippi sharecropper and visionary political leader Fannie Lou Hamer with the contemporary struggle for racial justice and human freedom. With ‘boldness and radical honesty,’ Hamer confronted in her own time many of the issues that Black activists are confronting today: state violence, sexism and white supremacy, political disenfranchisement, and economic exploitation. Grounded in the material conditions of her lived experience, Hamer crafted a worldview and a politics of radical inclusivity that guided her actions and inspired others. This book expands the boundaries of the Black radical political and intellectual tradition, and re-centers a voice that is too prescient to be ignored.” —Barbara Ransby, author of Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century

“Keisha Blain’s insightful new book . . . leaves us yearning to live in an America guided by Hamer’s unyielding commitment to justice, her full embrace of community, her creative spirit of collective problem-solving, and her unreserved love for Black people. This is a book for everyone who doesn’t know the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer and for everyone who thinks they do.” —Melissa Harris-Perry, author, media host, and the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair of Politics at Wake Forest University

“In Until I Am Free, Dr. Keisha N. Blain has written a rich, detailed, and moving portrait of a woman who was one of the most important civil rights activists in American history. In this meticulous biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. Blain puts her life and work in conversation with the world around us. In doing so, she gives the reader a profound sense of how Hamer’s too-often-ignored-contributions helped shape and lay the groundwork for so much of the work that activists continue to do today. This incredibly important book provides new ways of understanding a woman who saw this country for what it was, and demanded that it be better.” —Clint Smith, author of How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

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