“We have a job as Black women to support whatever is right and to bring in justice where we’ve had so much injustice.” – Fannie Lou Hamer
HERStory Matters: Civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer was born on October 6, 1917.
Born Fannie Lou Townsend in rural Montgomery County, MS, she was the youngest of 20 children born to Jim and Ella Townsend, poor sharecroppers, who found it hard to provide proper food and clothing for their children. When she was six years old she joined her family in the fields picking cotton and dropped out of school by the time she was in the third grade.
When she was 16, she caught polio which made it hard for her to work in the fields. When Marlow (her boss) found out that Fannie Lou could read and write, he made her the time and record keeper for the plantation in addition to cooking and cleaning his house.
In 1945, at the age of 27, Fannie Lou married Perry “Pap” Hamer who was a tractor driver on the Marlow farm. They had no children of their own. Fannie Lou went to the hospital to find out why she could not conceive and was told she had a tumor. She wasn’t told that they performed a hysterectomy on her that day but was later told by the doctor that it was done out of kindness. Fannie Lou was outraged. As a result, the Hamers adopted 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys who were all from very poor families.
On one fateful day, while walking by the Ruleville, Mississippi town center, Fannie Lou saw a sign posted by the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and decided to investigate. She was 37 years old at the time and was ripe for expressing her outrage over the conditions she and other blacks were subjected to in this rural community. She joined the SNCC and worked as a field worker on the voter registration committee. The committee worked on preparing blacks to read and write so they could register to vote.
Seventeen people tried to register and were turned back one day. When Marlow was informed of the drive to register, he threatened Fannie Lou and her family with expulsion from the plantation on which they worked. She left that night and stayed with friends but it wasn’t long before her location was discovered and she and her friends were shot at that night by the KKK.
She strongly believed that blacks could change their conditions, both political and economic, if they could vote for the candidates who would best serve them. Fannie Lou studied with the Southern Free School along with other potential voters and passed the voter registration test on her third try.
In 1963, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was formed because no help from the Federal Government regarding the right to vote was apparently coming. The party registered 60,000 new black voters across the state of Mississippi. Delegates from the party were sent to the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey where they challenged the seating of the Mississippi delegation.
Fannie Lou took the opportunity to describe to the convention, and to the world, the horrific way she was treated after they left the voter registration workshop in Charleston, South Carolina in June 1963. She said that on the way home, they were hungry and wanted to stop at a Trailways bus terminal in Winona, Mississippi for food. Fannie Lou decided to stay on the bus while the others went into the terminal. They were not served but were arrested. She was also arrested. She was taken out of her jail cell and taken to another cell and there, under the orders of a State Highway Patrol officer, was battered by two Negro prisoners with a police blackjack. The first prisoner beat her until he was exhausted. The law enforcement officer then ordered the second prisoner to beat her. It was three days before members of SNCC were allowed to take her to the hospital.
Fannie Lou told the convention that as a result of this beating, she suffered permanent kidney damage, a blood clot in the artery of her left eye, and a limp when she walked. Her riveting testimony to the convention, which was interrupted by a hastily called speech by President Johnson, informed the country about the treatment blacks were receiving at the hands of whites in the state of Mississippi and the rest of the south.
Fannie Lou’s involvement widened as she ran for Congress in the Mississippi state Democratic primary in 1964. She was unsuccessful in that run but she went on to appear at rallies and visit colleges and universities around the country to speak to students. She led the cotton pickers resistance movement in 1965 and was instrumental in helping to bring a Head Start program to her hometown of Ruleville, MS. Mrs. Hamer was also famous for her rich singing voice which she used often to soothe tensions and to fortify herself spiritually. She sang “This Little Light of Mine” and other spirituals to calm others during marches and critical events.
Fannie Lou was a Democratic National Committee Representative from 1968-1971. She ran for the Mississippi State Senate in 1971 and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972.
In 1972, a unanimous resolution praising Fannie Lou’s statewide and national contribution to civil rights was passed by the Mississippi House of Representatives. Other awards came her way as the courageous work she undertook was recognized. She received honorary PhDs from several universities including Howard University.
Fannie Lou Hamer died in the hospital at Mound Bayou, Mississippi on March 14, 1977, of heart problems, hypertension, and breast cancer.
“Democratic candidates are perfectly welcome to refrain from terminating their own pregnancies. But to be anti-choice on a policy level is absolutely indefensible from an economic justice, racial justice, gender justice and human rights standpoint. And if the Democratic Party does not stand for any of those things, then what on earth is it?”
Badass Black Women History Month: Celebrating 28 Black Women Who Said, “Fuck it, I’ll Do It!”
Day 10: Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie. Motherfuckin’ Lou. Hamer. Are y’all even ready for this? You’re not, but that’s ok, cuz Fannie wouldn’t have waited for you anyway.
Fannie was born in Mississippi in 1917. She started picking cotton for a sharecropper with her family when she was only 6. By the age of 13, she could pick between 200-300 pounds of cotton DAILY. (Can I just reiterate that this was in 1924?) When the plantation owner discovered she was literate, they made her the plantation’s record keeper. She would work on the plantation for another 18 years until she was inspired to become an activist by the gross abuses she faced.
You see, in 1961, Fannie had to have surgery to remove a tumor. Without her consent, doctors performed a forced hysterectomy as part of Mississippi’s forced sterilization plan to lower the number of blacks in the state. This was incredibly common at the time and Fannie created the phrase "Mississippi appendectomy" to bring attention to the fact that the government was sterilizing black women without their permission. Hamer did not let this stop her; it only energized her. She adopted two impoverished girls and became an avid activist. She would go on to fight for voting rights. She was beaten in jail cells, arrested constantly, and saw her friends murdered for using “whites only” facilities. Through it all, she never even thought about leaving her home of Mississippi or stopping her work.
In 1964, she was made the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. In this position, she was sent to the Democratic Convention to explain her struggles as a black voter. Her testimony brought the room to tears. Her words were so powerful, that Lyndon B. Johnson (who called her an “illiterate woman”) demanded an emergency press conference to take network TV attention away from her.
Fannie persisted. She kept talking and her unedited speech was aired all over late night TV channels, bringing in tons of support. She would later go on to start grassroots Head Start programs for children and would continue the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Poor Peoples Campaign.
Her tombstone reads: I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.
In the summer of 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, or “Freedom Democrats” for short, was organized with the purpose of challenging Mississippi’s all-white and anti-civil rights delegation to the Democratic National Convention, which failed to represent all Mississippians.
The Freedom Democrats’ efforts drew national attention to the plight of African Americans in Mississippi, and represented a challenge to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for reelection.
[For] the testimony before the Convention’s Credential Committee, the FDP had a lineup of different people: they had Rita Schwerner, wife of slain civil right’s worker Michael Schwerner, and they had Martin Luther King Jr., who every knew. But the highlight of the testimony was that of Fannie Lou Hamer, who was a sharecropper that was evicted from her plantation for trying to register to vote. She came to symbolize the Mississippi movement.
The testimonies were being broadcast live across America on major television networks (NBC, CBS, and ABC). President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was watching the testimonies, wasn’t scared of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s testimony; he was scared of Fannie Lou Hamer’s and didn’t want America to hear it. So Johnson holds an impromptu press conference, knowing the press would break away from Hamer’s testimony and cover what they thought was Johnson announcing who his choice for Vice President was going to be. Instead, Johnson announced the nine month anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the assassination attempt of Texas governor John Connally, leaving the press puzzled. By the time Johnson’s “conference” ended, Hamer was done delivering her testimony.
However, Johnson’s plan backfired when the press found out that his conference was held in order to take Hamer’s testimony off the air, which became a big story. This led the major news networks to air Hamer’s testimony on their late news programs and for the next few days, gaining national attention and support for the FDP’s movement.
Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was an
important civil rights leader and activist. She was the vice-chair of the
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, fighting for better rights and especially
voting privileges for the black community in the South.
life as a cotton picker on a plantation, and later became its record keeper
when the owner discovered she was literate. She became involved with the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, travelling all across the South to promote
voting registration and literacy. She was arrested and even brutally beaten for
her convictions, but she did not give up, and instead campaigned extensively
for the cause. She was elected as a national Democrat party delegate in 1972.
AFROCENTRIC presents: An ode to Fannie Lou Hamer: Her Sacrifices//Her Legacy.
● Fannie Lou Hamer was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. An integrated group of activists who openly challenged the legality of Mississippi’s all-white, segregated delegation.
In 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. Such bravery came at a high price for Hamer. She was fired from her job and driven from the plantation she had called home for nearly two decades—just for registering to vote. But these actions only solidified Hamer’s resolve to help other African Americans get the right to vote.
“I have just as much right to stay in America - in fact, the black people have contributed more to America than any other race, because our kids have fought here for what was called “democracy”; our mothers and fathers were sold and bought here for a price. So all I can say when they say “go back to Africa,” I say “when you send the Chinese back to China, the Italians back to Italy, etc., and you get on that Mayflower from whence you came, and give the Indians their land back, who really would be here at home?” -Fannie Lou Hamer
“Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as
important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s
sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.”
As the nation continues to witness violence against the Black community - along with repeated calls that #BlackLivesMatter - these 1964 words from Ella Baker hold an eerie weight. The civil rights and human rights activist devoted five decades of her life fighting for equality, placing a strong emphasis on grassroots organization and the power of the people to enact change.
“You didn’t see me on television, you didn’t see news stories about me.
The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put
together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come. My theory
is, strong people don’t need strong leaders.“
Baker acted as a behind-the-scenes facilitator for the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. She played a key role in mentoring, empowering and challenging important figures within the civil rights movement, and while her name might not be as widely recognized, her contributions to society are no less valid.
Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, changed this nation’s perspective on democracy. She worked for political, social and economic equality for herself and all African Americans. She fought to integrate the national Democratic Party, and became one of the first black delegates to a presidential convention.
Fannie Lou Townsend was born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, in 1917, the youngest of 20 children. By the age of six she was working in the cotton fields. She became known in the civil rights movement as a captivating preacher and singer, inspiring others with her moral and physical courage.
In 1962, the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came to Hamer’s town and encouraged blacks to register as voters. Hamer volunteered, even though she had not previously known that it was a Constitutional Right for blacks to vote. After registering herself and working with SNCC, she lost her job, received death threats, and was severely beaten by the police in an effort to intimidate her. Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) in 1964 because blacks were not allowed in the all-white regular party delegation. Although Lyndon Johnson refused to seat the MFDP, the Democrats agreed that in the future no delegation would be seated from a state where anyone was illegally denied the right to vote.
Hamer also worked towards achieving financial independence for blacks. In 1969, she helped to start Freedom Farms Corporation, which lent land to blacks until they had enough money to buy it. She worked with the National Council of Negro Women, organized food co-operatives, and helped convene the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1970.
Though Hamer wanted children, a white doctor had sterilized her without permission, so she adopted daughters instead. In her last years, she received many honors and awards. Engraved on her headstone in her hometown of Ruleville, Mississippi, are her famous words: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
I don’t give a fuck if your person doesn’t get enough votes, you lose. I don’t want to hear it. There are more than two choices and you are allowed to vote for whoever you want. This is America. If you can’t get the votes to win, tough shit.
For all those people blaming people who voted third party for Hillary’s loss,
1.She still wouldn’t have won if she got ALL the 3rd party votes
2. What is wrong with you. These people saw that both major candidates were terrible and so they voted from their best conscience. They should NOT be attacked for exercising their voter freedom.
3. Who you really have to blame is those who voted for Trump! Seriously, you’re going to lash out at basically anyone who didn’t vote for Hillary? The only people who should be shamed here are Trump supporters. The only candidate who, above all other candidates in the past decade, is the most sexist, racist, homophobic, bigoted arse ever.
Don’t attack 3rd party voters. They probably have the right to sleep the most soundly out of all of you. I know I’ll receive hate for this. I don’t care. It’s not right how you supposed Democratic ‘freedom fighters’ are treating 3rd party voters. It’s hypocritical, it’s wrong, and it’s not even justified. She still wouldn’t of won enough electoral votes with them. But even if she could, it’s still not right to blame and shame them for her loss.
They didn’t want her or Trump to win for very good reasons. Forcing them to take your side is not American and it’s not Freedom. It’s scare tactics and herd mentality. And if you’re contributing to the hate towards third party voters, you’re contributing another brick in the wall.
You’re also wasting your time, time you could spend.. I don’t know, contributing to the IMPEACHMENT PROCESS? Actually doing something about it, other than spewing nonsensical hate at a minority… Like the Trump supporters are?
Democratic voters, you should know above all others that hate will unify only the worst kinds of people.