FANNIE LOU (TOWNSEND) HAMER Biography - Activists, Revolutionaries and other freedom fighters


Biography » activists revolutionaries and other freedom fighters » fannie lou (townsend) hamer


Mrs. Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer was born October 6,                               
1917 in the Mississippi Delta on a plantation where sharecropping was             
the norm.  She was tricked into picking cotton at the age of six in               
exchange for a few items from the "Boss Man's" Store.  By the time she           
reached age ten, Fannie was picking as much cotton as some adults.               
She earned the position of Timekeeper.  To help calm her people down             
after a lynching, shooting or KKK riot, Mrs. Hamer would sing like “ain't         
no tomorrow”.  Fannie Lou married Perry “Pap” Hamer.                             
In 1962, Mrs. Hamer decided she wanted to try to register to vote                 
after attending a SNCC voter registration meeting at William Chapel               
Church in Ruleville, MS pastored by the late Rev. J. D. Story.  It would         
turn out to be just another way of asking to die.                                 
After returning home, Mrs. Hamer was ordered to go and take her                   
name off  the registrar’s book.  If she refused to do so, she would               
have to move.  Refuse she did and move she did.                                   
I didn't’t go register for you sir, I did it for myself”, replied Fannie Lou to   
her boss. Mr. W. D. Marlowe.  She was kicked off the plantation where             
she had lived for the past eighteen years.                                       
Sixteen shots were fired into The Tuckers home over the bed Mrs.                 
Hamer slept where she had fled for safety.  “God had already told me             
to move on, so I wasn’t there that night,” Fannie said.                           
Fannie Lou Hamer, June E. Johnson, James West, Euvester Simpson,                 
Annelle Ponder and others were jailed in Winona, Mississippi.  Two               
black prisoners were ordered to beat Mrs. Hamer.  She was beaten so               
badly she no longer had feelings in her legs.                                     
Mrs. Hamer’s passion for her people and her interest and                         
understanding of how powerful the political process was in America led           
her and others to create the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to             
challenge the Credential Committee in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1964           
to be seated rather than the regular Democrats who they exclaimed                 
were "illegally elected" based on discriminatory practices against blacks         
statewide.  “We Will Not Accept The Compromise”, stated Mrs.                     
Hamer.  She had consulted with Bob Moses and Mrs. Unita Blackwell                 
and others prior.  Mr. Lawrence Guyot (Chairman MFDP) was in jail and             
couldn't make the trip.                                                           
President Johnson interrupted the nationally televised convention in             
order to keep Fannie Lou and her views from spreading like wildfire.             
All of the major networks later ran her speech in its entirety and the           
whole country was spellbound to hear such convictions coming from a               
Southerner who felt she had nothing left to fear but fear itself.                 
"If the Freedom Democratic Party isn't seated today, I Question                   
America", Fannie told the Credentials Committee.  "Is this America               
where we have to sleep with our phones off the hooks because we be               
threatened daily just cause we want to register to vote to become first           
class citizens".                                                                 
Mrs. Hamer’s efforts did not stop there.  She challenged Black                   
Educators to “teach our children more about our history since school             
books left it out”.  She started a daycare center with the assistance of         
the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) under the leadership                   
of Dr. Dorothy Irene Height (President). Mrs. Hamer also, organized               
approximately, 640 acres of Freedom Farm land.                                   
June E. Johnson gets very emotional when speaking about Mrs.                     
Hamer.  I gave BLOOD with this lady, do you understand me?"  I love               
Mrs. Hamer and she discussed with me her "Unfinished Business"                   
while she lay on her death bed, continues Johnson.  June was beaten               
in jail with Fannie Lou for voter registration activities as a teenager.         
Fannie Lou Hamer's labor ceased at 5:15 p.m. on March 14, 1977 in                 
Mound Bayou, Mississippi due to Breast Cancer and complications from             
her jail house beating.