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Genially about American civil rights leader and activist Fannie Lou Hamer

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Fannie Lou Hamer


Fannie Lou Hamer was born on October 6th, 1917 in Montgomery County Mississippi. Her family was poor growing up, and she had to pick cotton at age 6 and leave school at age 12 to work. She married Perry Hamer in 1944 and they worked on a plantation in Mississippi until 1962. In 1961, Hamer had her uterus removed without her consent while she was having surgery to remove a tumor. This was an example of forced sterilization meant to reduce the black population. Hamer and her husband adopted two daughters since they were unable to have children.

In 1964, Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) whose goal was to challenge the local Democratic Party’s attempts to stop black participation. Hamer and the MFPD went to the Democratic National Convention and tried to speak, but President Lyndon B. Johnson held a press conference so her speech would not be televised. However, it was televised later and by 1968, Hamer was a member of Mississippi’s first integrated delegation. (You can watch her testimony by clicking on the red button in this interactive image!)

In 1961, Hamer attended a meeting led by civil rights activists from the SNCC and the SCLC. Angry about efforts to deny the vote to black people, Hamer became a SNCC organizer and led volunteers to register to vote at a Mississippi courthouse. However, they were denied the right to vote and unfairly fined by the police. Hamer was fired from the plantation for trying to vote, and she and her husband moved.

Hamer also helped organize Freedom Summer in 1964, which brought hundreds of college students to help with African American voter registration. Hamer announced her candidacy for the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1964 but she was not allowed on the ballot. In 1971, she helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus. She also founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative (FFC), an organization that bought up land black people could farm and own together. Hamer died of breast cancer in 1977 at the age of 59.

Michals, Debra. “Fannie Lou Hamer.” National Women's History Museum, 2017, www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/fannie-lou-hamer.