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Barefootin': Life Lessons from the Road to Freedomby Unita Blackwell
Synopses & Reviews
When youre starting out on the road barefootin, you dont know where youre going. But youve got to step out, or youll never get anywhere. And you keep on going, one step at a time.
You have to have faith to go barefootedyou dont know what you might step on, what pain might comebut you keep on walking. And it makes you tough. Sometimes you skip and jump and run. Sometimes you get a thorn in your toe or trip over a limb, but theres no turning back.
Barefootin means getting mud between your toes and dancing on the water! Your spirit is in your feet, and your spirit can run free.
In 1933, Unita Blackwell was born in Lula, Mississippi, a tiny town in the Delta where living was as hard as it gets, the stuff of the blues music that originated there. Like the other black people in Lula, Unita grew up in a sharecropping family, riding on her mothers cotton sack before she was old enough to pick cotton herself. Having left school at age twelve in order to make a living, Unita was trapped in menial jobs, and a bright future seemed beyond her reach.
But Unita was forever changed in the summer of 1964 when civil rights workers came to her town of Mayersville, Mississippi. Electrified by the movement, Unita transformed her life from one of despair to one of hope, and in Barefootin she details her inspirational rise from poverty to power, from silence to outspokenness, from oppression to freedom.
From her rebirth as a freedom fighter and social activist to her tenure as mayor of her home town, to her work as an international peacemaker and presidential advisor, here are all the unlikely turns of Unitas remarkable life. The lessons she shares affirm and motivate us all, whether its to remember that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, that world-changing movements are the result of many small steps, or that freedom means taking responsibility for our own lives and helping to make the world a better place for all.
Infused with the language and rhythms of the Delta, Barefootin is at once the stirring memoir of an exceptional woman and a guide to living a full and meaningful life from someone who knows how.
"Blackwell's engrossing autobiography makes for both a frontline account of the Civil Rights Movement by 'a homegrown agitator' and a manual for political action. Born in the Mississippi Delta in 1933, Blackwell became a founding mother of the movement; her affiliations include the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the National Council of Negro Women, with whom she organized voter registration drives, school desegregation efforts, housing programs and economic boycotts. Blackwell was also elected the first black female mayor in Mississippi. Neither softening nor overdramatizing her story, she writes of the daily familial and communal African-American experiences that made her 'just the kind of person' the civil rights workers'were looking for' when they arrived in Mayersville, Miss., in 1964. Overnight, Blackwell 'went from cotton picker to full-time freedom fighter.' Her experiences may seem familiar, but the intimacy and immediacy of her telling brings freshness to this slice of history. Blackwell's autobiography reaches back before that pivotal Freedom Summer and beyond — her role in a 1973 women's delegation to China and her MacArthur genius grant, for example. Distinguished by her vision and courage, Blackwell's autobiography is a moving spiritual guide as well as a valuable historical document. (June 13)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
One of the Civil Rights movement's most memorable voices tells the inspirational story of her remarkable life as she journeyed from sharecropper to activist, sharing the lessons she learned along the road.
About the Author
Unita Blackwell is a fellow of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In the 1960s she served as a project director for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and was a member of the Freedom Democratic Party that crashed the 1964 Democratic convention. In 1976, she was elected mayor of Mayersville, Mississippi, becoming the first black woman mayor in the state; she served for twenty years and still resides there. At the age of fifty, she received a masters degree from the University of Massachusetts. In 1992, the MacArthur Foundation named her a fellow and recipient of its “genius” grant. Unita holds four honorary doctorates and has received numerous awards for her contributions to human rights.
JoAnne Prichard Morris is an editor, writer, and publisher. She worked closely with her late husband, Willie Morris, on many of his books, including My Dog Skip. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi.
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