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Until I Am Free: Teaching Fannie Lou Hamer Past and Present


Education

Until I Am Free: Teaching Fannie Lou Hamer Past and Present


 

Fannie Lou Hamer Garden, Mississippi Freedom Trial (Flickr)

What we don’t know about the real life of the civil rights leader, Fannie Lou Hamer could fill a book. Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America provides a fresh perspective on an exhaustive body of literature about Hamer’s spectacular role in the civil rights movement. Academic approaches to this civil rights icon have not paid sufficient attention to Hamer as a Black woman, who suffered the consequences of her convictions, yet still mustered the courage to be true to them no matter the personal cost. The content of this deficiency can and should be taught in the university classroom. Dr. Blain’s latest book provides a compelling road map to these teachable moments. What gives her book such pedagogical strength is its ability to make coherent connections between significant movements and issues of the present and the struggles and events of the past. For example, in addition to the book’s poignant analysis of the state of voting rights in America since the 1960s, Blain examines the ever-looming threat of white violence against Black bodies, the state of Black leadership, and the scourge of Black Southern poverty. Carefully chosen sources expose the connections between these issues in Hamer’s day and ours. They also serve as teaching tools – here’s how to use them. 

The reason I would rather go to Mound Bayou if I take sick, is that women go up to that hospital [the white hospital in Ruleville] and be sterilized, without signing anything. And to be perfectly honest, see, I can give you proof: It happened to me. And it happened to so many others. This is nothing beautiful to say, but I want people to know what’s going on. They [Black women] be sterilized without knowing it…

This excerpt from a New York Times article entitled “Mississippi ‘Black Home’: A Sweet and Bitter Bluesong” by June Jordan, is an excellent way to begin a seminar on reproductive rights for many reasons. Written in 1970, it offers the historical grounding for a discussion on reproductive freedom. Historically,  Black…



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