A new history of Black Liberation, told through the intertwined story of two grassroots organizers
The Black Power movement, often associated with its iconic spokesmen, derived much of its energy from the work of people whose stories have never been told. Stayed On Freedom brings into focus two unheralded Black Power activists who dedicated their lives to the fight for freedom.
Zoharah Simmons and Michael Simmons fell in love while organizing tenants and workers in the South. Their commitment to each other and to social change took them on a decades-long journey that traversed first the country and then the world. In centering their lives, historian Dan Berger shows how Black Power united the local and the global across organizations and generations.
Based on hundreds of hours of interviews, Stayed On Freedom is a moving and intimate portrait of two people trying to make a life while working to make a better world.
About the Author
Dan Berger is professor of comparative ethnic studies and associate dean for faculty development and scholarship in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell. His book Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era won the 2015 James A. Rawley Prize. He lives in Seattle, WA.
“Both personal and with a big-picture view—a welcome contribution to the literature of the civil rights movement.”—Kirkus
Stayed On Freedom is a movement story and a love story all wrapped together. It does not avoid or elide the problems and contradictions of a movement life—the traumas and costs, disappointments and betrayals. Dan Berger assembles a sensitive, honest, and beautiful intergenerational account of the extraordinary lives of Michael and Zoharah Simmons, their kin and comrades, and the worlds they dreamed and, still, try to create. Stayed On Freedom not only compels us to rethink the Black freedom movement but radically alters our understanding of love and struggle.—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams and Thelonious Monk
Dan Berger yet again brings together superb research, a deep commitment to justice, and beautiful writing in Stayed On Freedom. This is a rare intimate portrait of the stakes, evolution, and expansiveness of the Black freedom movement that will join classic texts on this period. —Imani Perry, New York Times bestselling author of South to America
"Stayed On Freedom is a triumph of storytelling. Dan Berger generously offers an ever-blooming portrait of two people's struggle without reducing their story to struggle alone. This is a deeply loving, deeply caring text that is both tender and ferocious in approach."—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America
“Dan Berger is one of our most gifted historians of Black radical thought and activism of the 1960s and 1970s. By way of a political biography of two relatively unknown organizers, Michael Simmons and Zoharah Simmons, Berger casts the spotlight away from already known figures and unearths the work of ordinary Black people in sustaining the Black radical movement known as Black Power in the late 1960s and beyond. Told through the experiences of rank-and-file movement participants, Stayed On Freedom powerfully refutes the conventional wisdom of Black Power as the destructive undoing of good will created by the Civil Rights Movement, instead showing it to be propelled by love and an abiding desire for freedom. An original and necessary book.”—Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
"I have to praise this book in at least three ways. In the literary sense, this is some of the best historical storytelling I have ever read. Politically speaking, we need more histories like this, that move beyond the individual and examine how liberation moves through interpersonal relationships, and we need to do it like Dan Berger does it, with love. And personally speaking, this book is a literal revelation! I've known this family for most of my adult life and I learned things from this book I would have never otherwise known. This book is a miracle, a model, and a must-read. Thank you Dan Berger!"—Alexis Pauline Gumbs, author of Undrowned