Fannie Lou Hamer

1917-1977
Founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
Birthplace: Montgomery County, MS


Fannie Lou Hamer, was born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, MS. She was the youngest of 19 children and her parents were sharecroppers. Her grandparents had been slaves. When she was in sixth grade, she left school to help in the fields.

At the age of 44, Hamer attended a rally organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She and others were surprised to learn that African Americans actually had a constitutional right to vote. Hamer's involvement in the civil rights movement formally began when she volunteered to attempt to register to vote in 1962. At that time, this was a dangerous decision. She later reflected, "The only thing they could do to me was to kill me, and it seemed like they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember." She was jailed and beaten by the police. Afterwards, she became a field secretary for the SNCC and traveled around the country registering people to vote.

In 1964, she helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) because the state's regular party excluded African Americans. Hamer was the MFDP spokesperson for the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, NJ, where she told the convention committee how African Americans in many states across the country were prevented from voting through illegal tests, taxes, and intimidation.

Fannie Lou Hamer died on March 14, 1977, at the age of 59. Her headstone reads, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired." Hamer was an inspirational figure to many involved in the struggle for civil rights. She was elected to the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.

Related Resources

Selected Works
Fannie Lou Hamer and the Fight for the Vote. Penny Colman (1993)
A Biography. Women for Racial and Economic Equality. Susan Kling (1979)
This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer. Kay Mills (1993)
Fannie Lou Hamer: From Sharecropping to Politics. David Rubel (1990)

Web Resources
National Women’s Hall of Fame
http://www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=72

Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer
http://www.ibiblio.org/sncc/hamer.html

Black History Month  Return to the Encyclopedia
of Prominent African Americans
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