Fannie Lou Hamer was born as Fannie Lou Townsend on the 6th of October, 1917 in a small town in Montgomery County, Mississippi. She was the youngest of twenty children born to a poor sharecropping family. Since the family struggled financially, she at the age of six with the rest of her brothers and sisters were put out in the fields to work so that they didn’t starve. This left little time for her to attend school, but even so she still aspired to go to college.
Civil Rights Activist
She married Perry Hamer in 1944, at the age of twenty-seven. As a young woman, she was sterilized by a white doctor without her knowledge, which inspired her to become involved in her black peoples’ rights. During the 1950’s Hamer started to attend civil rights conferences such as Regional Council of Negro Leadership. At one of the conferences she attended, she was encouraged to register to vote. This was a dangerous proposition because black’s that voted during this time period might be beaten or even killed by white people. Despite this Hamer actively supported it and encouraged others to do so.
Beaten by a White Policeman
When she left the sharecropping land to go vote, she was kicked off her land and the family that she was staying with at the time got 16 bullets through the side of their house from nightriders. When she was arrested by the police, on her way into town, she was taken to jail. There she was beaten by two black prisoners because a white policeman had ordered them to hit her with a blackjack (a big club). They beat her until she couldn’t move anymore and her kidneys were severely damaged. All the while she listened to her colleague in the next room also screaming in pain.
Last Years and Death
Even this could not deter Fannie. During the next presidential election, she went to protest that the voting system did not fairly represent the black people of Mississippi because black people were not allowed to vote. Since she was the most eloquent speaker in her group, she addressed the audience, “Is this America? Is this the home of the free and the brave?” She testified against the white policeman that had beaten her and broke down weeping in front of everybody. Her speech was very controversial so the president tried to block it from television, but was unsuccessful in blocking it from all TV’s in America.
In 1964-1965, and was an she ran for Congress and was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. After many years of pain and suffering, President Lyndon Baines Johnson finally signed the Voting Rights act in 1965. On March 14, 1977, at the age of 57, Fannie died due to breast cancer/heart failure. Her tombstone reads one of her most famous quotes, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
There is an organization named after Fannie called the Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Committee (FLHSC), which is a non-profit organization comprised of civil rights leaders who raise money and teach people about equal rights and work towards Fannie’s dream of justice for everybody.
There is a statue of Ms. Hamer in Mississippi and is one of the top civil rights tourist destinations in the whole country.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer was an important civil rights activist and civil rights leader in the 20th century. She is most famous for testifying against a white policeman, who beat her, in front of court.