Reviews for Walk with me : a biography of Fannie Lou Hamer

Publishers Weekly
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Biographer Larson (Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter) delivers a moving and in-depth portrait of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977). The youngest of 20 children born to tenant farmers in the Mississippi Delta, Hamer left school at age 13 to work the fields full-time after an accident sidelined her mother, Ella, a “fierce and protective” woman known to carry a gun in order to protect her children from racial abuse. In 1961, while seeking treatment for pelvic pain, Hamer was sterilized without her consent, an experience that left her furious and “fueled her long simmering passion for change.” Soon thereafter, she began participating in voter registration drives organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi. Larson details the backlash to the civil rights movement in Mississippi, including the withholding by county agents of federal commodities from Black families and nighttime attacks on Black homes, and in the book’s most harrowing chapter, she describes Hamer’s vicious beating by white police officers in 1963. Profiles of other women civil rights leaders, including Septima Clark and Ella Jo Baker, are interwoven throughout, and Larson sheds light on the conflicts within the movement, in particular the points of contention between middle-class leaders and grassroots organizers like Hamer. This comprehensive account gives a lesser-known activist her due. (Sept.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A civil rights activist from the Mississippi Delta earns a sympathetic, fully fleshed portrait. Fannie Lou Hamer (nee Townsend, 1917-1977) was not well educated or a polished orator like many of her fellow activists, but her ability to empathize with the poorest Black men and women, long denied the ability to vote in the South, resonated profoundly throughout the region and rendered her one of the most effective speakers of all. Larson, currently a scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center, begins with a devastating portrait of her subject’s milieu. She was the daughter of an impoverished sharecropper, the last of 20 children born to her beloved mother, who, Hamer later said, “taught us to be decent and re-spect ourselves.” Forced to help support the family from childhood, she quit school to work in the fields. Larson amply shows Hamer’s indomitable work ethic and strong sense of the injustices Blacks were forced to endure. Married to Perry “Pap” Hamer, a mechanic, and living on a plantation, she underwent a hysterectomy in 1961, without her consent, and could never have children of her own. As the NAACP began organizing the civil rights movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee opened offices to generate grassroots voting efforts, Hamer responded enthusiastically, finally able to channel her outrage and anger. Robert Parrish Moses, the local SNCC field representative, recognized Hamer’s leadership potential and tapped her to galvanize voter registration, against violent White intimidation. Hamer’s big moment came as she told her life story on national TV as part of the effort to challenge Mississippi’s all-White delegation to participate in the Democratic National Convention in 1964. The group won the right to seat Black delegates at the 1968 convention, and Hamer even ran for office herself. With diligent research featuring new sources, Larson brings her subject into a well-deserved spotlight. A social justice pioneer gets her due in this inspiring story of toil and spirit. A must-stock for libraries. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
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Larson (women's studies, Brandeis Univ.; Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman) explores the life of Mississippi sharecropper and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer in this gripping new book. Like she did with her biographies of Harriet Tubman and Rosemary Kennedy, Larson uncovers new sources to tell an in-depth, revelatory narrative about Hamer, who suffered immense hardships and political violence and became, against the odds, one of the most powerful leaders of the Southern Freedom Movement. When the college students of SNCC arrived in her hometown of Ruleville to encourage local residents to register to vote, Hamer became both an activist and a target of local white supremacists and law enforcement. Larson details Hamer's arrest on a bus trip with other activists in Winona, MS, where she was beaten so badly that she was permanently disabled, and the months-long campaign to establish the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which led to Hamer's famous speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Even after Hamer became an in-demand orator and ran for office in Mississippi, she was often derided by other civil rights leaders, including Roy Wilkins, and died in poverty. VERDICT An inspiring read for activists fighting for voting rights and against racism.—Kate Stewart, Arizona State Museum, Tucson


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A civil rights activist from the Mississippi Delta earns a sympathetic, fully fleshed portrait. Fannie Lou Hamer (nee Townsend, 1917-1977) was not well educated or a polished orator like many of her fellow activists, but her ability to empathize with the poorest Black men and women, long denied the ability to vote in the South, resonated profoundly throughout the region and rendered her one of the most effective speakers of all. Larson, currently a scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center, begins with a devastating portrait of her subjects milieu. She was the daughter of an impoverished sharecropper, the last of 20 children born to her beloved mother, who, Hamer later said, taught us to be decent and respect ourselves. Forced to help support the family from childhood, she quit school to work in the fields. Larson amply shows Hamers indomitable work ethic and strong sense of the injustices Blacks were forced to endure. Married to Perry Pap Hamer, a mechanic, and living on a plantation, she underwent a hysterectomy in 1961, without her consent, and could never have children of her own. As the NAACP began organizing the civil rights movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee opened offices to generate grassroots voting efforts, Hamer responded enthusiastically, finally able to channel her outrage and anger. Robert Parrish Moses, the local SNCC field representative, recognized Hamers leadership potential and tapped her to galvanize voter registration, against violent White intimidation. Hamers big moment came as she told her life story on national TV as part of the effort to challenge Mississippis all-White delegation to participate in the Democratic National Convention in 1964. The group won the right to seat Black delegates at the 1968 convention, and Hamer even ran for office herself. With diligent research featuring new sources, Larson brings her subject into a well-deserved spotlight.A social justice pioneer gets her due in this inspiring story of toil and spirit. A must-stock for libraries. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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