October 6 Fannie Lou Hamer is Born

October 6, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1917. 

That was the day Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer was born in Montgomery County, Mississippi. 

She was the youngest of 20 children.

Her parents were sharecroppers and she began working the fields at the age of six. 

At the age of 12, Fannie had to drop out of school to sharecrop to meet the needs of her family.

Marrying in 1944, she and her husband continued to work as sharecroppers on a plantation near Ruleville. 

After decades of abject poverty and Southern political repression, Fannie Lou Hamer joined up with voter registration activists in 1962. 

When she and seventeen others traveled to Indianola to register, Fannie was fired from her job and driven from the plantation she had worked at for decades. 

She began working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and played a central role in organizing Freedom Summer. 

In a short time, Fannie was repeatedly arrested, beaten and shot at for her activism. 

She suffered kidney damage after police beat her nearly to death in a Winona, Mississippi jail as she traveled home from a literacy workshop. 

By 1964, she helped to found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the all-white delegation to the Democratic Convention. 

President Lyndon Johnson was so threatened by live testimony she was giving before the Convention’s Credentials Committee, that he orchestrated an emergency press conference to preempt the broadcast. 

When the Committee attempted a backroom deal to seat just two MFDP delegates with no voting rights at the convention, Hamer and other delegates left in disgust. 

Hamer continued her activism but her life was tragically cut short in 1977 from hypertension and breast cancer. 

She was just 59.

 

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