Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers

Women in History: Fannie Lou Hamer

on August 13, 2011


  • lived from 1917-1977.
  • was the youngest of 20.
  • was a Christian.
  • was pro-life! She considered abortion to be “legal murder.”
  • was a voting and civil rights activist.
  • played a huge role in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer.
  • was Vice-Chair for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
  • went to the National Democratic Convention to challenge the delegation from Mississippi.
  • was married.
  • was forcibly sterilized because she was a black woman. She was never told and never asked.
  • adopted two children with her husband.
  • after hearing Rev. James Bevel’s appeal that they should register to vote, she volunteered first despite knowing that a black woman registering to vote in the South could have horrible consequences.
  • was known for singing Christian hymns to the group of people she was with in order to keep morale high.
  • was sought out by Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) because of her reputation.
  • was arrested for not complying with a whites only restaurant policy.
  • was beaten so badly in jail she almost died and she became permanently disabled.
  • lost her job as a sharecropper for her activism.
  • had death threats all the time.
  • was shot at.
  • continued despite these hardships.
  • ran for Congress twice.
  • criticized the Vietnam war.
  • has had compositions about her and in her honor composed.
  • was eventually able to register to vote and then helped others learn to pass the test that was an obstacle for voting.
  • sued the county for school desegregation.
  • helped start a Head Start program in her community.
  • helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus.
  • worked as the SNCC Field Secretary.
  • helped form the Freedom Farms.
  • helped start a Pig Bank, a way of providing poor families with piglets.
  • testified in court on behalf of black, single mothers and helped them win rights to employment.

Others have said

  • “None of us would be where we are now had she not been there then.” – Andrew Young

“Mrs. Hamer always spoke from the heart. When she spoke at Atlantic City in front of the national TV, she spoke the same way, what you felt when she spoke and when she sang was someone who was opening up her soul and really telling you what she felt.  I think one of the most beautiful things about the movement in Mississippi was that it enabled a person like Mrs. Hamer to emerge.” – Bob Moses

She said

  • “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared – but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they [white people] could do was kill me, and it seemed they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”
  • “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
  • “We didn’t come all the way up here to compromise for no more than we’d gotten here. We didn’t come all this way for no two seats, ’cause all of us is tired.”
  • “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
  • ”Sometimes it seem like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed.  But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom.  I’m not backing off.”
  • “A white mother is no different from a black mother. The only thing is they haven’t had as many problems. But we cry the same tears.”
  • “With the people, for the people, by the people. I crack up when I hear it; I say, with the handful, for the handful, by the handful ’cause that’s what really happens.”
  • “Christ was a revolutionary person. That’s what God is all about, and that’s where I get my strength.”
  • “Christianity is being concerned about your fellow man, not building a million-dollar church while people are starving right around the corner.”
  • “We have to make it work. Ain’t nothing going to be handed to you on a silver platter, nothing. That’s not just black people, that’s people in general, masses. See, I’m with the masses…. You’ve got to fight. Every step of the way, you’ve got to fight.”
  • “I’m not going to try that thing. I got a black husband, six-feet-three, 240 pounds, with a 14 shoe, that I don’t want to be liberated from. But we are here to work side by side with this black man in trying to bring liberation to all people.”
  • “We still love these children. And after these babies are born we are not going to disband these children from our families … . I think these children have a right to live. And I think that these mothers have a right to support them in a decent way … . We are dealing with human beings.”
  • “No. What would I look like fighting for equality with the white man?  I don’t want to go down that low.  I want the true democracy that’ll raise me and that white man up… raise America up.”
  • “There is one thing you have got to learn about our movement. Three people are better than no people.”

“All of this is on account we want to register [sic], 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?”

“Do you mean to tell me that your position is more important than four hundred thousand black people’s lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you lose this job of Vice-President because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take [the nomination] this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about. Senator Humphrey, I’m going to pray to Jesus for you.”

“We have to realize just how grave the problem is in the United States today, and I think the sixth chapter of Ephesians, the eleventh and twelfth verses help us to know…what it is we are up against. It says, ‘Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ This is what I think about when I think of my own work in the fight for freedom.”

Books about her (Note, I haven’t read any of these, these are just some of the books I’ve found):

There is also the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy. (Note, I found two websites for it, so I’m not sure which is the real one/which is the most current.)

There is also a Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee.

There is also a Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation, as Fannie did die of Breast Cancer.

Also, the Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Drive exists to try and get a full size statue of her in her hometown.


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