Today is 40 years after her death, ASKiNG RADiO Senior Reporter, KiNG JAMES YiYE writes on the life and times of this Civil Rights Activist and Philanthropist.
A great woman who was born to struggle, struggle so that others would be free. Let's first look at Fannie's favourite quotes:
- “One day I know the struggle will change. There's got to be a change—not only for Mississippi, not only for the people in the United States, but people all over the world.”
- “You don't run away from problems—you just face them.”
- “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
- “Nobody's free until everybody's free.”
- “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.”
BackgroundFannie Lou Hamer was born on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. In 1962, she met civil rights activists who encouraged blacks to register to vote, and soon became active in helping. Hamer also worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which fought racial segregation and injustice in the South. In 1964, she helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Hamer died in 1977.
Early LifeCivil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer was born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. She was the youngest of 20 children. Her parents were sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta area. Hamer began working the fields when she was only 6 years old.
Around the age of 12, Hamer dropped out of school in order to work full-time and help out her family. She continued to be a share cropper after her 1944 marriage to Perry "Pap" Hamer. The couple worked on a cotton plantation near Ruleville, Mississippi. They were unable to have children after Hamer had a surgery to remove a tumor. During the operation, her surgeon gave Hamer a hysterectomy without her consent.
Civil Rights ActivistIn the summer of 1962, Hamer made a life-changing decision to attend a protest meeting. She met civil rights activists there who were there to encourage African Americans to register to vote. Hamer was one of a small group of African Americans in her area who decided to register themselves. On August 31, 1962, she traveled with 17 others to the county courthouse in Indianola to accomplish this goal. They encountered opposition from local and state law enforcement along the way.
Hamer dedicated her life to the fight for civil rights, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. This organization was comprised mostly of African-American students who engaged in acts of civil disobedience to fight racial segregation and injustice in the South. These acts often were met with violent responses by angry whites. During the course of her activist career, Hamer was threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at. She was severely injured in 1963 in a Winona, Mississippi jail. She and two other activists were taken in by police after attending a training workshop. Hamer was beaten so badly that she suffered permanent kidney damage.
In 1964, Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was established in opposition to her state's all-white delegation to that year's Democratic convention. She brought the civil rights struggle in Mississippi to the attention of the entire nation during a televised session at the convention. The following year, Hamer ran for Congress in Mississippi, but was unsuccessful in her bid.
Along with her political activism, Hamer worked to help the poor and families in need in her Mississippi community. She also set up organizations to increase business opportunities for minorities and to provide childcare and other family services. She helped establish the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971.