Photo credits: Mississippi Public Broadcasting/YouTube
Fannie Lou Hamer (October 6, 1917 – March 14, 1977) pursued her legacy working as a voting and women’s rights activist, community organizer, and leader in the civil rights movement.
Hamer co-founded and served as vice-chair of the Freedom Democratic Party, which she sponsored at the Democratic National Convention in 1964. Alongside the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Hamer coordinated Mississippi’s Freedom Summer (SNCC). She was also a founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, a group dedicated to recruiting, training, and supporting women of all races who want to run for public office.
In 1962, Hamer started her civil rights activity, which she continued until her health began to fail nine years later. She was recognized for her utilization of religious folk songs and phrases, as well as her tenacity in leading the Mississippi civil rights struggle for black women. While attempting to qualify for and utilize her right to vote, she was fleeced, intimidated, humiliated, fired upon, and abused by bigots, including police officers.
Through her work with projects like the Freedom Farm Cooperative, she subsequently assisted and urged thousands of African-Americans in Mississippi to register to vote, as well as hundreds of disenfranchised individuals in her region. She ran for the United States Senate in 1964 and the Mississippi State Senate in 1971, both of which she lost. She launched a lawsuit challenging the government of Sunflower County, Mississippi, in 1970, for continuing to practice unconstitutional segregation.
Hamer died at Mound Bayou, Mississippi, on March 14, 1977, at the age of 59. Her burial ceremony was well-attended. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young gave a speech to commemorate her. In 1993, Hamer was admitted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame after her death.