Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement Book Poster Image
Frank, poetic picture book bio has dazzling art.

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age 11+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Voice of Freedom tells the story of Fannie Lou Hamer and her rise from child sharecropper to civil rights icon. It shares important information about what it meant to be a black American in the Jim Crow-era South.

Positive Messages

Perseverance, pride, activism, and equality are only a few of the messages hammered home in the book. In first-person poems written in her voice, Hamer serves as the filter through which readers see horrific acts of racism, experience unfair work practices, and observe her incredible strength.

Violence

Voice of Freedom describes much of the violence of the civil rights era of the 1960s. Hamer and associates are beaten severely when they are unjustifiably arrested. Men fire bullets into homes to dissuade people from registering to vote, and SNCC voter registration volunteers are killed. Hamer threatens to slit a man's throat for turning his back on the movement.

Sex

A woman is described as having been tricked into submitting to an operation that made her sterile. This operation was part of a government program.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, by Carole Boston Weatherford, is a lyrical look at the life of this iconic leader, who began life in a poor family of Mississippi sharecroppers, endured racial injustice throughout her life, and became a voting rights activist in the 1960s. The story is told through poems written in Hamer's first-person voice and mixed-media collages that won illustrator Ekua Holmes a 2016 Caldecott Honor and the 2016 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award. Parents should be prepared to discuss inequality and the rampant acts of violence and racially motivated killings intended to destroy the civil rights movement, including multiple assassinations. Hamer's story also includes the fact that she was sterilized against her will in 1961 as a part of a government program that targeted poor and primarily minority women.

User Reviews

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Parent Written byabbysmith13 September 13, 2017

Mature content and LANGUAGE

I agree with the CSM review, but there is very harsh language that needs to be mentioned. When Fannie Lou is in prison, those beating her call her a "nig... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Fannie Lou Hamer is sick and tired of being sick and tired. Black people are not being treated fairly, and she sees firsthand the effects that racism has on her family and the people around her. She experiences an awakening when she's in her forties and is asked to help motivate African-Americans to become voters. It's the first time she realizes blacks even have the right to vote. She goes on to become the spirit and the voice of the civil rights movement and helps change the country for the better.

Is it any good?

Through poetry, the lyrics to traditional gospel spirituals, and mixed-media quilt-like collages, Hamer's life and experiences jump off the page in this stunning picture-book biography. Readers see her move back and forth from being a regular child to being a child living under the oppressive restrictions of the Jim Crow South. Author Carole Boston Weatherford deftly conveys a humanness that's often missing from profiles about civil rights giants. Hamer's strength and vulnerability are unflinchingly displayed, which takes the book to another, more sophisticated level. 

Hamer's plainspoken approach to her experiences are sure to appeal to both parents and kids alike as they tackle the difficult issues of civil rights, social resistance, and the inner workings of social justice organizations.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of fair work practices. Sharecropping was called legalized slavery because of the unfair work and pay practices sharecroppers were forced to endure. Have you heard any stories in the media about unfair wages or employment practices?

  • Do women in the civil rights movement receive enough attention and focus? 

  • Fannie Lou Hamer railed against the two-party system (Republicans and Democrats) that shut out viable African-American candidates. Do you see the same issues with the political system today? How did candidates in Hamer's time use the media to get their messages out, and how do candidates use the media today?

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