Fannie Lou Hamer, Civil Rights Activist, Savagely Beaten in Mississippi Jail
Fannie Lou Hamer was an African-American sharecropper in Mississippi who became active in the civil rights movement, particularly the voter registration campaign. Returning from a workshop in South Carolina with other African-Americans on this day, she and the others were arrested in Winona, Mississippi, and then brutally beaten in the jail.
The beating only increased Hamer’s commitment to civil rights, and she became a leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was founded on April 26, 1964. She is particularly famous for her passionate testimony at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, on August 22, 1964, asking that the Freedom Democratic Party delegation be seated at the convention rather than the all-white, segregationist “official” delegation.
Fannie Lou Hamer died on March 14, 1977. A statue in her honor was erected in Ruleville, Mississippi, on October 5, 2012.
Fannie Lou Hamer’s 1964 testimony: “They left my cell and it wasn’t too long before they came back. He said, ‘You are from Ruleville all right,’ and he used a curse word. And he said, ‘We are going to make you wish you was dead.’
“I was carried out of that cell into another cell where they had two Negro prisoners. The State Highway Patrolmen ordered the first Negro to take the blackjack. The first Negro prisoner ordered me, by orders from the State Highway Patrolman, for me to lay down on a bunk bed on my face. I laid on my face and the first Negro began to beat. I was beat by the first Negro until he was exhausted. I was holding my hands behind me at that time on my left side, because I suffered from polio when I was six years old.
“All of this is on account of we want to register, to become first-class citizens. And if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?””
Before she was famous; See Fannie Lou Hamer tell her story in 1963:
Learn more: Kay Mills, This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (1993)
Hear the music of the Civil Rights Movement (18 songs): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFc8glsWjgU&list=PLYwfZ_bASjn25XLL6KrVH6F4d8TqlTBog
Go to the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy: