When I was born, on October 6, 1917, the plantation owner
paid my mother fifty dollars for producing a future field hand.
The money helped my family through the winter.
Chile, I am proof that the Delta birthed the blues.
And so begins the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, told in free verse from her perspective. Hamer was born in Mississippi mere days before my privileged white grandmother was born in Memphis, TN. This was an interesting vantage point from which to read about Hamer’s remarkable life and indomitable spirit as she spoke out across the country, urging folks to step up and do what was right throughout the Civil Rights Movement. Hamer even ran for office!
Free verse works well for this story, but the real strength of the book is in the collage illustrations. Hamer grew up singing spirituals, one of which is “This Little Light of Mine.” Later, she used that same singing to stir up crowds and call them to action. And in nearly every scene, the illustrator shows Hamer in bright, sunshiny yellow, brightening up the pictures.
Recommended Use: An outstanding example of a well done picture book biography, this is a great book to use with older students to demonstrate the very concept of a picture book biography. Due to the long, meaty text, the issues covered (beatings, etc.), and one use of the “n” word and “bitch,” it’s best reserved for middle grades students and up. But do bring this book out when studying the Civil Rights! It’s a nice complement to many of the longer, novel-length works set during the mid-20th century.