In this intimate biography, Chana Kai Lee documents Hamer's lifelong crusade to empower the poor through collective action, her rise to national prominence as a civil rights activist, and the personal costs of her ongoing struggle to win a political voice and economic self-sufficiency for blacks in the segregated South.. "Offering a complex understanding of how racism, sexism, violence, and economic injustice intersected to spur the civil rights movement and to shape, and sometimes restrict, the role of women and poor people within it, Lee illuminates the abiding links between political activism and economic transformation.. "The definitive biography of one of the most important civil rights activists of the twentieth century, For Freedom's Sake is also a moving social history of a critical epoch in American history.
At the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer garnered the national spotlight when she and other members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party attempted to unseat the entirely white official Mississippi delegation. Though the coup failed, and Hamer herself earned the wrath of Lyndon Johnson, she helped draw attention to the ways in which black Southerners were denied political power. At the time, Hamer had only been involved in the civil rights movement for two years; at the age of 47 she reemerged as a natural and vibrant leader who would go on to run (unsuccessfully) for the Mississippi State Senate. Lee's biography is less committed to exploring Hamer's personal life than to charting her growth as an activist and examining the profound impact of gender, sexuality, violence and poverty on the early civil rights movement. By focusing on these issues in Hamer's own life--the repeated rapes her grandmother endured, resulting in 20 illegitimate children, Hamer's own involuntary sterilization and the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of the police--the book highlights the vantage point of African-American women in the fight for basic human rights in the South. Lee handles this difficult material sensitively, placing it in context of the economic and social complexities of Southern life. Never sentimentalizing her subject, Lee honestly discusses the movement's bitter internal struggles, Hamer's severe bouts with depression and her strong disagreements with white feminists. This biography vividly brings to light a crucial aspect of the civil rights movement that until now has not been given its due. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.