Booksigning and Reading Friday, August 4

Mississippi author Unita Blackwell will be reading from her new book Barefootin' recently released from Crown Publishers.
She and coauthor JoAnne Prichard Morris will be signing copies of the book at the Attic Gallery on Friday, August 4 starting at 4:30 PM followed by readings downstairs in the Attic's new Highway 61 Coffeehouse.

From the publisher:

From Sharecropper to Civil Rights Activist, First Woman Black Mayor in Mississippi to Kennedy Institute Fellow,
Unita Blackwell Offers An Inspirational Memoir and Guide To Living A Full Life
Life Lessons from the Road to Freedom
By Unita Blackwell with JoAnne Prichard Morris
“Engrossing…Distinguished by her vision and courage, Blackwell’s autobiography is a moving spiritual guide as well as a valuable historical document.” — Publishers Weekly
“Barefootin’ is a vibrant, inspirational memoir from a woman of extraordinary courage, commitment, and creativity. This book is required reading for all those who want to make change from the grassroots up.” — Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder, Children’s Defense Fund

“Barefootin’ means getting mud between your toes and dancing in the dust. Your spirit is in your feet, and your spirit can run free.” These are the words Unita Blackwell, author of BAREFOOTIN’ (Crown Publishers, June 20, 2006), has lived by her whole life. When Unita was young and walking barefoot down a dusty road in Lula, Mississippi, she would often tire and beg her mother to carry her. Instead of giving in, her mother provided her with encouraging words, “Come on, baby; you can make it.” Unita took this early lesson to heart and applied it throughout her life. Even in the face of great adversity, when the KKK burned crosses in her yard and when she was threatened with violence because of her drive to peacefully obtain the African-American vote, she kept on barefootin’.
Like the other black people in Lula, Unita grew up in a sharecropping family on an enormous cotton plantation, where as an infant she rode on her mother’s back as she picked cotton. She eventually moved around the area – up to Memphis, over to Arkansas – but her life hardly changed. She did not attend school past the eighth grade. Instead, she worked on the plantations during the harvest and then found migrant work during the rest of the year – picking crops, canning fruit in Florida – trying to make her way. She found herself living like so many of her peers, drinking hard, partying hard, and working hard, with no real hope for the future.

One day in the summer of 1964, however, she met a couple of young men with strange accents (they were not from “around here,” she knew immediately) who told her they had come to help blacks in her tiny Mississippi town to register to vote. In the early 1960’s, black people on the Delta did not vote, fearing the terror that white folks might unleash. But Unita was electrified by the challenge. She led the drive to vote in the Delta, staring down guns, dogs, and small-town sheriffs. She linked up with the radical grassroots based civil rights organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and became a field director. She worked with Fannie Lou Hamer, SNCC’s charismatic leader, to confront the entrenched racism and racial terrorism of the deep south, and in 1965 she was invited to the White House to celebrate the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
The Civil Rights movement was just the beginning of Blackwell’s metamorphosis from field hand to leadership as a creative problem solver. As a community specialist for the National Council of Negro Women, she helped create and implement programs enabling home ownership for low income people. She went on to serve as Mayor of Mayersville, MS for twenty years and then to a life of worldwide work on human rights issues, from rural poverty in the US to relations with China. She befriended people from Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton to Stokely Carmichael and Chou En-Lai to Oprah Winfrey and Shirley MacLaine. She was an advisor to President Jimmy Carter.
Unita Blackwell has gathered a trove of lessons about how to live a full life, which she shares through her own remarkable story and in her passionate and joyful voice. For those who ask, “But what can I do?,” Unita answers that the world is in their hands and that “When you’re barefootin’ the road to freedom, you have watch and fight and pray. Watch the road so when you run up on a roadblock, you can cut a new path and go around. Watch the other fellow on the road and watch yourself as well. Fight for the right of way. Fight for the right to stay on the road. Fight to keep yourself open to understanding. Pray for the strength to finish what you started. And don’t let nobody turn you around.”
BAREFOOTIN’ is an intimate portrait of the Civil Rights movement, but more than that, it is the story of one woman’s personal movement from fear and dependence to courage and self-actualization, with lessons for us all.
About the Authors: Unita Blackwell, who did not finish high school and worked in Mississippi Delta cotton fields until she was thirty years old, is a fellow of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and she holds a masters degree from the University of Massachusetts. In 1992 the MacArthur Foundation named her a Fellow and recipient of its Genius Grant. Blackwell was elected mayor of Mayersville, MS, in 1976. The first black woman mayor in the state, she served for twenty years. From 1990 to 1992 she was the president of the National Conference of Black Mayors. She was project director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s and a member of the famous Freedom Democratic Party that crashed the 1964 Democratic Convention. She holds four honorary doctorates and has received numerous awards for her contributions to human rights.
JoAnne Prichard Morris is an editor, writer, and publisher, who like Blackwell grew up in the Mississippi Delta. As an editor she has acquired and developed more than 200 books, including the bestselling Sweet Potato Queen books. She worked closely with her late husband Willie Morris on may of his books, including My Dog Skip and My Cat Spit McGee, and she completed and edited his novel Taps for posthumous publication

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