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Until I Am Free

Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America

Keisha N. Blain


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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 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.

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

“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

Beacon Press, 9780807061503, 240pp.

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

About the Author

Keisha N. Blain is a historian of the 20th century United States specializing in African American History, the modern African Diaspora, and Women’s and Gender Studies. She is the author of the prize-winning book Set the World on Fire and co-editor, with Ibram Kendi, of the New York Times bestseller Four Hundred Souls. She is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh, president of the African American Intellectual History Society, and an editor for the Washington Post’s ‘Made by History’ section.