Today we honor Fannie Lou Hamer, who was a seminal figure in the fight for African American voting rights and political power in the 1960's. Hamer "was a civil rights activist whose passionate depiction of her own suffering in a racist society helped focus attention on the plight of African-Americans throughout the South."
"Born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. The daughter of sharecroppers, Hamer began working the fields at an early age. Her family struggled financially, and often went hungry...Married to Perry 'Pap' Hamer in 1944, Fannie Lou continued to work hard just to get by. In the summer of 1962, however, she 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 became active in helping with the voter registration efforts."
"In 1964, working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Hamer helped organize the 1964 Freedom Summer African-American voter registration drive in her native [home,] Mississippi. At the Democratic National Convention later that year, she was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, an integrated group of activists who openly challenged the legality of Mississippi’s all-white, segregated delegation....She brought the civil rights struggle in Mississippi to the attention of the entire nation during a televised session at the convention. The next year, Hamer ran for Congress in Mississippi, but she 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. Hamer died of cancer on March 14, 1977, in Mound Bayou, Mississippi." "During the course of her activist career, Hamer was threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at. But none of these things ever deterred her from her work." Although Fannie Lou Hamer came from a poor background and wasn't highly educated, she was a fierce advocate who was able to galvanize, mobilize, and inspire a movement.