- NAME: Fannie Lou Hamer
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, Philanthropist
- BIRTH DATE: October 06, 1917
- DEATH DATE: March 14, 1977
- Did You Know?: Fannie Lou Hamer was the youngest of 20 children.
- Did You Know?: Fannie Lou Hamer was unable to have children after having a surgery to remove a tumor, and being given a hysterectomy without her consent.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Montgomery County, Mississippi
- PLACE OF DEATH: Mound Bayou, Mississippi
- Maiden Name: Fannie Lou Townsend
- Full Name: Fannie Lou Hamer
Best Known For
Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist who helped African Americans register to vote and who co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
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Fannie Lou Hamer was born on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. In 1944, she met civil rights activists who encouraged blacks to register to vote, and soon became active in helping. Hamer also worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which fought racial segregation and injustice in the South. In 1964, she helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Hamer died in 1977.
"One day I know the struggle will change. There's got to be a change—not only for Mississippi, not only for the people in the United States, but people all over the world."
"You don't run away from problems—you just face them."
"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired."
"Nobody's free until everybody's free."
"I feel sorry for anybody that could let hate wrap them up. Ain't no such thing as I can hate anybody and hope to see God's face."
Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer was born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. She was the youngest of 20 children. Her parents were sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta area. Hamer began working the fields when she was only 6 years old.
Around the age of 12, Hamer dropped out of school in order to work full-time and help out her family. She continued to be a share cropper after her 1944 marriage to Perry "Pap" Hamer. The couple worked on a cotton plantation near Ruleville, Mississippi. They were unable to have children after Hamer had a surgery to remove a tumor. During the operation, her surgeon gave Hamer a hysterectomy without her consent.
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. Hamer was one of a small group of African Americans in her area who decided to register themselves. On August 31, 1962, she traveled with 17 others to the county courthouse in Indianola to accomplish this goal. They encountered opposition from local and state law enforcement along the way.
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. According to The New York Times, she said "They kicked me off the plantation, they set me free. It's the best thing that could happen. Now I can work for my people."
Hamer dedicated her life to the fight for civil rights, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. This organization was comprised mostly of African-American students who engaged in acts of civil disobedience to fight racial segregation and injustice in the South. These acts often were met with violent responses by angry whites. During the course of her activist career, Hamer was threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at. She was severely injured in 1963 in a Winona, Mississippi jail. She and two other activists were taken in by police after attending a training workshop. Hamer was beaten so badly that she suffered permanent kidney damage.
In 1964, Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was established in opposition to her state's all-white delegation to that year's Democratic convention. She brought the civil rights struggle in Mississippi to the attention of the entire nation during a televised session at the convention.
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