She was a purest who's commitment to social justice was unwavering and unparalleled to any one person in the Civil Rights Movement.
I had heard about Fannie Lou Hamer, I mean anyone working in any Civil Rights organization better. And of course, everyone knows her famous quote from the 1964 Democratic Convention, "I'm tired of being sick and tried." But it really wasn't until I went to seminary that I really began to explore Ms. Hamer's life.
My professor Mark Wendoft assigned a book, This Little Light of Mine, The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kay Mills. When I finished reading the book, I was in awe and I needed to know more. I needed an inside scoop. So I made my way over to Mrs. Jacqueline Jackson, the wife of Rev. Jesse Jackson to talk to her about Ms. Hamer for a paper I was writing
Sitting in her dining room, which was our hangout, I said to Ms. J, as I call her, "Tell me about Fannie Lou Hamer." The first thing to come out of her mouth was, "She was one of the most integrist person's of the Civil Right Movement." She added, "Fannie took them all to task and when she was in jail, they beat her like she was a man."
SNCC, The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee there for Freedom Summer.
Plus, you had to interpret whatever portion of the Mississippi constitution they requested of you. That day, she was asked a question about, "de facto law." Huh? What? Right! You get it. But she didn't back down, she did what she could. Later Ms. Hamer admitted, "I didn't no nothing about no de facto law." On the way back to the rural area from the city the bus carrying the passengers was stopped for being, "to yellow."
By the time Ms. Hamer arrived to her house that night, the plantation owner had already made his way to her place. He told her point blank, "Go get your name off that book!" believing that she had actually been able to register that day. She stood tall and told him point blank, "Mr. Dee I didn't go down there to register for you. I went down to register for myself." That took a lot of balls for a black woman to stand toe to toe, eye to eye with a white man in 1962. Not only was her life in danger but her livelihood, the planation owner to sharecroppers was your bread and butter. Fannie Lou Hamer stood her ground and never turned back.
The Hamer's sued the city and police chief Curtis Floyd in Hamer v. Floyd, becoming the first lawsuit under the federal Voting Rights Act brought by private parties to block a state's prosecution, claiming harassment and infringement on their right to register and vote.
A major part of the work in Mississippi was challenging business as usual. They formed the Mississippi Freedom Party in direct challenge to the standing Democratic leadership. On one level they formed the party as a way to educate and organize blacks in Mississippi, but the primary goal was to unseat the all-white Mississippi delegation to the Democratic Convention in both 1964 and 1968.
Ms. Hamer said to Humphrey, "Do you mean to tell me that your position is more important to you then the four hundred thousand black people lives?"
Indeed she was uncontrollable and unpredictable. They excluded her from every other meeting after that. The Civil Rights leadership believed getting Johnson elected was the most important goal and would in the long run help further the cause. The Mississippi delegation left Atlantic City in 64 with a bitter taste.
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