African American History Forum
FannieLou Hamer: Activist
Fannie Lou Hamer, known as the lady who was "sick and tired of being sick and tired," was born October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. She was the granddaughter of slaves. Her family were sharecroppers - a position not that different from slavery. Hamer had 19 brothers and sisters. She was the youngest of the children.
In 1962, when Hamer was 44 years old, SNCC volunteers came to town and held a voter registration meeting. She was surprised to learn that African-Americans actually had a constitutional right to vote. When the SNCC members asked for volunteers to go to the courthouse to register to vote, Hamer was the first to raise her hand. 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."
When Hamer and others went to the courthouse, they were jailed and beaten by the police. Hamer's courageous act got her thrown off the plantation where she was a sharecropper. She also began to receive constant death threats and was even shot at. Still, Hamer would not be discouraged. She became a SNCC Field Secretary and traveled around the country speaking and registering people to vote.
Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). In 1964, the MDFP challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation to the Democratic National Convention. Hamer spoke in front of the Credentials Committee in a televised proceeding that reached millions of viewers. She told the committee how African-Americans in many states across the country were prevented from voting through illegal tests, taxes and intimidation. As a result of her speech, two delegates of the MFDP were given speaking rights at the convention and the other members were seated as honorable guests.
Hamer was an inspirational figure to many involved in the struggle for civil rights. She died on March 14, 1977, at the age of 59.