Tuesday, February 9, 2016


   Two women stand out in my memory as being largely responsible for the success of the Civil Rights Movement.  One is Ella Baker and the other is Fannie Lou Hamer.

   Fannie Lou Hamer is known for her efforts for voting rights, in forming the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, her fight to be seated at the Democratic convention.  She worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which fought segregation and injustice in the south.
   Born in 1917, she began picking cotton at age six and was as good or better than most adults by the age of 10.  I doubt that many people today can imagine the suffering and endurance of this courageous fighter for civil rights.  When she went to register to vote, she was threatened that she would have to move. So she did.  Later she was arrested with others and beaten so badly she could not feel her legs.
   Her famous words "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired" are inscribed on her tombstone.
She only lived from 1917 to 1977 and it isn't difficult to imagine that the hardships she suffered took a toll on her.  She was one of 20 children born to sharecroppers. She did get to finish the sixth grade while working in the fields. She was hospitalized for a minor ailment and the doctor gave her a hysterectomy without telling her, leaving her unable to have children. She adopted four children anyway.        Attending a civil rights meeting in 1962 changed her life.
   By 1964 she was fighting for the right of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegates to be seated at the convention, as opposed to the illegally constituted all white delegation.  Go to this link and you'll find the speech she gave.
An excerpt:   "I laid on my face and the first Negro began to beat. I was beat by the first Negro until he was exhausted. I was holding my hands behind me at that time on my left side, because I suffered from polio when I was six years old.

After the first Negro had beat until he was exhausted, the State Highway Patrolman ordered the second Negro to take the blackjack.

The second Negro began to beat and I began to work my feet, and the State Highway Patrolman ordered the first Negro who had beat me to sit on my feet - to keep me from working my feet. I began to scream and one white man got up and began to beat me in my head and tell me to hush.

One white man - my dress had worked up high - he walked over and pulled my dress - I pulled my dress down and he pulled my dress back up.

I was in jail when Medgar Evers was murdered.

All of this is on account of we want to register, to become first-class citizens. And if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?

Thank you."

"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." [At Howard University's biography of Fannie Lou Hamer.] 
   Shot at, beaten, thrown out of her home of 18 years, arrested, incarcerated, and more -- nothing could stop this amazing and courageous fighter for the rights of all African Americans in the United States. She will never be forgotten.


Testimony and biography - http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/sayitplain/flhamer.html 
Biography - http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/fannie-lou-hamer 
Biography - http://www.biography.com/people/fannie-lou-hamer-205625 
Fannie Lou Hamer statue - http://www.fannielouhamer.info/hamer_statue.html 
Fannie Lou Hamer biography - http://www.fannielouhamer.info/index.html 
Fannie Lou Hamer - http://www.beejae.com/hamer.htm 
Howard University biography - http://www.howard.edu/library/reference/guides/hamer/ 

No comments:

Post a Comment