Citation: Weatherford, C. B., & Holmes, E. (2015). Voice of freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the civil rights movement. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Voice of Freedom is a beautiful and moving story told in verse of Fannie Lou Hamer’s life. This biography told through twenty-two poems in a variety of forms is accompanied by rich, textured illustrations that provide depth by providing a visual story to accompany the poems. Their artistic interpretations of the words use a variety of textures and colors to illustrate the depth and richness of Fannie Lou’s life.
The book opens with a quotation from Hamer: “The truest thing that we have in this country at this time is little children…if they think you’ve made a mistake, kids speak out.” It is perfectly suited to a juvenile biography. What follows are poems about the milestones and influences of Hamer’s life from her birth and childhood through her work in the civil rights movement and politics.
An author’s note follows the poems with more information about Hamer’s life and work as well as the historical period in which she lived. A time line of Hamer’s life and the historical events that occurred therein, source notes, and a bibliography are also included at the end of the book.
Spotlight Poem: “Black Power”
“’Say it loud—I’m black and I’m proud.’ –James Brown
Black power! had become the battle cry
of the movement. For me, that meant pride
and equal rights, but for Stokey Carmichael,
the new head of SNCC, it meant fighting if need be—
and it meant having an all-black staff.
Hurt my heart to lose Bob Zellner
and the other white workers
so committed for so long.
How could I hate?
I mourned whites who died for freedom.
I have lived long enough to know
that no race has a corner on decency.
I feel sorry for anybody that could let hate wrap them up.
Ain’t no such thing as I can hate anybody
and hope to see God’s face.
Out of one blood God made all nations.
This poem stood out as an important illustration of how pride in oneself does not have to mean alienating or bringing others down. Its focus is love across races and true equality. By using a quote from Hamer herself (“Out of one blood God made all nations”), the poem perfectly captures her spirit and her message of love, not hate.
The lines “I have lived long enough to know/that no race has a corner on decency” struck a chord with me because of the emphasis placed on the second line by adding a break between the two. It continues the theme of bad people being a part of everything but not letting that weigh you down or stop you from working for what is right. No race, no cause is without issues or bad apples. That doesn’t mean the entire thing can be dismissed or thrown away. This is an important concept for children—the world isn’t black and white. It is a difficult concept to convey, but this poem manages to do so in an inspirational way as the subject of the poem would have done.
Take 5 Activity:
- Read the poem aloud to the class.
- Let the students discuss hate and how it is used to divide people.
- Read Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh and discuss the black power movement.
- Re-read the poem aloud together and let the students discuss anything that stands out to them.
- Recommend books such as Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney, The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson, and Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Be Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz.