Hamer, Fannie Lou – “Songs My Mother Taught Me” – [Smithsonian Folkways]
I listened to the CD first, then read the booklet. Hamer’s rich, soulful voice recounts memories of songs her mother sang to her at various times, such as while the family picked bale after bale of cotton. Hamer was the 20th child of a sharecropper family in Mississippi, but really she was so much more–she used the songs her mother taught her to shore up spirits and rally support for civil rights. She was a crucial participant in Freedom Summer activities, and she worked tirelessly to achieve voting rights for blacks, despite the retaliation and threats of white supremacists. She ran for Congress, she sang, and she spoke at mass meetings. Some of those speeches are included here. This is a must-listen, a slice of African American history that needs to be told. Inspiring and horrifying at the same time.