On the Lived Theology Reading List: Until I Am Free

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America

Award-winning historian and New York Times best-selling author Keisha N. Blain powerfully blends social commentary, biography, and intellectual history in Until I Am Free. This book is essential reading for anyone committed to social justice. The book expands the voice of working-poor and disabled Black woman activist Fannie Lou Hamer, an intellectual icon of the civil rights movement, challenging the reader as we continue to navigate contemporary concerns around race, inequality, and social justice.

Despite the many challenges and limitations she endured as a poor Black woman living in the South, Hamer was committed to making a difference in the lives of others. She was not intimidated by anyone with higher social status, better education, or prestigious jobs. She refused to be set aside and instead used her words and ideas to take center stage. Her activist’s voice comes through with strength on these pages, as if we have the privilege to sit right beside her as she fights for justice.

As a new generation of activists commit to dismantling systems of oppression worldwide, the author situates Hamer among other historical leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.; Malcolm X; and Rosa Parks, showing how her ideas are just as important today. More than 40 years since her death, her words still speak truth to power, exposing the faults in American society and providing valuable insights on how the nation can live up to its ideals of “equality and justice for all.”

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Blain backs up her trenchant analysis with extensive research and relevant quotes from her subject. The scholarly text brims with heart, and the author’s affection for Hamer infuses every line. Readers will walk away both informed and inspired . . . . A highly readable, poignant study of the life and influence of a civil rights legend.”

—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“[A] vivid, passionate biography. . . . 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.”

—Booklist, Starred Review

“As talented a storyteller and cultural critic as she is a historian, Keisha Blain has written a history of Fannie Lou Hamer that also challenges readers to look to her legacy as a guide for tackling current issues of voter suppression, state-sanctioned violence, women’s inequality, and racism.”

—Ms. Magazine, “Most Anticipated Reads for the Rest Us – 2021”

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