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

weatherford_voice of freedomstar2 Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of 
the Civil Rights Movement
by Carole Boston Weatherford; 
illus. by Ekua Holmes
Intermediate   Candlewick   45 pp.
8/15   978-0-7636-6531-9   $17.99

Weatherford’s latest picture-book biography (Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, rev. 11/06; I, Matthew Henson, rev. 3/08; among many others) chronicles the life of civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer, from her beginnings as the youngest child of Mississippi sharecroppers, through the evolution of her political awareness, to her lasting impact on the civil rights movement. Weatherford incorporates direct quotes (indicated by italics and sourced in the endnotes) into her free-verse text, using a conversational, colloquial voice that makes the transitions seamless. The book tackles complex and little-addressed aspects of life under Jim Crow (such as Hamer’s forced sterilization under a Mississippi law) and of the civil rights movement (such as the battle she waged at the 1964 Democratic convention against proposed compromises that would have weakened the movement). Artist Holmes, in her children’s literature debut, elevates an already-excellent narrative with richly colored collage illustrations that layer meaning upon meaning with scraps of historical photos, newsprint, maps, musical scores, and more. Using shadows, patterns, and alternately vast and intimate perspectives, she adds emotional heft to the contrasts between Hamer’s public stature and personal experiences. This majestic biography offers a detailed, intelligible overview of Hamer’s life while never losing the thread of her motivations, fears, and heroic triumphs; and places the civil rights movement in personal, local, national, and international contexts. An extensively detailed timeline, an author’s note, source notes, and a bibliography are appended.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Claire Gross
Claire Gross
Claire Gross is the youth librarian at the Egleston branch of the Boston Public Library and a former associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine.

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