1964 December 20

Fannie Lou Hamer: “I’m Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired”


Fannie Lou Hamer was a Mississippi sharecropper who became a prominent civil rights activist in the mid-1960s. On this day, she spoke in Harlem, New York City, in support of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which called for its representatives to be seated in the new Congress because of systematic voting discrimination against African-Americans in Mississippi. On August 22, 1964, she delivered a famous speech to the 1964 Democratic Party Convention, demanding that the integrated Freedom Democratic Party delegation be seated rather than the segregationist, all-white “official” delegation. Covered on national television, the speech made Hamer a national hero. The MFDP challenge failed, however, as its delegates rejected unacceptable compromises to be seated at the Democratic Party Convention in Atlantic City. Four years later, after another intense but low-key battle, Hamer took her seat as a delegate at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention.

Fannie Lou Hamer and other African-American sharecroppers, who were returning from a voting rights workshop, had been arrested and then beaten in jail in Winona, Mississippi, on June 9, 1963.

Fannie Lou Hamer died in 1977. A statue in her honor was erected in Ruleville, Mississippi, on October 5, 2012.

Hamer: “My name is Fannie Lou Hamer and I exist at 626 East Lafayette Street in Ruleville, Mississippi. The reason I say ‘exist’ [is] because we’re excluded from everything in Mississippi but the tombs and the graves. That’s why it is called that instead of the ‘land of the free and the  home of the brave.’ It’s called in Mississippi ‘the land of the tree and the home of the grave.’ It was the 31st of August of 1962, that eighteen of us traveled 26 miles to the county courthouse in Indianola, Mississippi, to try to register to become first-class citizens. It was the 31st of August in 1962, that I was fired for trying to become a first-class citizen.”

Read Hamer’s Speech: http://www.crmvet.org/docs/flh64.htm

Read Hamer’s biography: 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

Learn more: Gordon Martin, Count Them One by One: Black Mississippians Fighting for the Right to Vote (2010)

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