Saturday, February 25, 2006

When I lived in Jackson, Mississippi, for two and a half years, I learned that Fannie Lou Hamer was an important figure in that state’s civil rights struggles. I heard her name mentioned on CSPAN last night as a panel of journalists were discussing the civil rights movement. These panelists were old enough to have been reporters in the South during the civil rights movement.

Fannie Lou Hamer died of breast cancer in 1977. She was 60.

Hamer knew poverty and humiliation as she grew up in a sharecropper family in rural Mississippi. Her formal education ended with the sixth grade. Her life changed from being unnoticed to making a visible difference when she was in her mid-forties. It was in 1962 that she was invited to attend a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee meeting at a church near her home. She decided that no matter what the cost, she should try to register to vote. It did cost her dearly, but with courage and persistence she did get registered to vote and went on to become a civil right activist working with voter registration drives and helping develop programs to assist economically deprived African American families. She was beaten, threatened, and ridiculed. As a founding member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, she fought for African American representation on the Mississippi delegation to the Democratic National Committee.

Her faith, resolve, compassion, and selfless passion for a worthy cause are exemplary for us all.


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