Mississippi Town Celebrates Civil Rights Legend Fannie Lou Hamer's 100th Birthday
Today marks the 100th birthday of civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer.
October 06, 2017 at 10:42 pm
October 6 marks civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer's 100th birthday.
The Associated Press reports that Hamer's hometown of Ruleville, Mississippi is holding various community events in celebration of the late icon's birthday.
Best known for saying she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired” of the mistreatment of black people in the South, Hamer passed away from cancer in 1977 at the age of 59.
When she decided to register to vote in 1962, she was fired from the plantation where she worked a sharecropper. Rather than crush her spirit, this only made Hamer more determined to exercise her right to vote. And to insure that other black people in the South were allowed to do the same.
Two years later, Hamer played a key role in integrating the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party group that went to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A rival all-white group tried to block Hamer's group from being seated.
Hamer, in what a witness called "her thunderous voice and the passion in her eyes," stood and addressed the committee chosen to decided whether her group could attend.
"If the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America," Hamer said, "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?”
Her act of courage and her persuasive words led other white Southern delegations to threaten to leave if her group wasn't seated. Hamer and her group were offered two, not-voting seats at the convention. They rejected the offer, calling it inadequate.
Like other civil rights heroes, Hamer wasn't afraid to put her life on the line for what was right.
Hamer stated that in 1963 she and other black women were returning from citizenship training in South Carolina when they were pulled off a bus in Winona, Mississippi, and taken to jail.
She told a television crew that a white highway patrolman said to her, “‘We are going to make you wish you was dead.’” Once she was in jail, Hamer said that white officers ordered other black inmates to beat her up.
“All of this is on account of we want to register, to become first-class citizens,” Hamer said.
Undeterred, Hamer spent the years following working alongside other civil rights activists to register black voters, kicking her efforts into high gear after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That act made public segregation and discriminatory employment practices illegal, while the Voting Rights Act of 1965, outlawed practices that ensured that everyone would be allowed to vote.
Hamer was a force for good in her community, as well. One man who was a child during the civil rights era, told the AP that Hamer secured his family a house with running water and indoor plumbing. Before 1976, his family had been forced to live in rudimentary shacks.
Hamer will forever be known as a voice that stood up against anyone who tried to silence her.
Happy 100th birthday to this icon who helped to make our present possible!
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