In Jezebel’s series Rummaging Through the Attic, we interview nonfiction authors whose books explore fascinating moments, characters, and stories in history. For this episode, we spoke with Dr. Keisha N. Blain, author of Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America. Dr. Blain’s book is a biography of one of America’s most significant civil rights activists, Fannie Lou Hamer, who helped to secure the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Hailing from a Mississippi sharecropper family, Hamer joined the movement at the age of 44 and faced challenges not only from the outside, but also from within: Many of her peers looked down on her for her manner of speaking and illiteracy, often calling her uneducated and ignorant. “Ironically, the very things that made her appear different from the other [civil rights] leaders,” explains Dr. Blaine, “turned out to be exactly what made her all the more powerful and influential.”