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“I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo --

“I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.” These were famous words spoken by a courageous, passionate and determined Fannie Lou Hamer.

 

Hamer emerged as an active participant during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She was born Oct. 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. As the youngest of 20 children, she was a sharecropper most of her life. She met her husband, Perry Hamer, on the plantation where she worked.

 

When Hamer learned that African-Americans had the right to vote she volunteered to take the trip to Indianola, Mississippi, to register. The attempt was unsuccessful because of the infamous literacy tests. During one attempt to register to vote she, and others, were stopped by police, arrested and beaten.

 

Her activism garnered threats, and she almost lost her job; however, she was not deterred.

 

In 1962, Hamer became a field-secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and with determination, successfully registered to vote. In June 1963, Hamer and other activists were beaten by police officers, but she did not let the scars keep her from fighting.

She went on to help register other African-American voters in her community and soon took her fight for civil rights to the national stage.

 

At the time, the Mississippi Democratic Party excluded African-Americans, so Hamer aided in founding the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. She continued as a voice for the civil rights struggle in Mississippi when the MFDP challenged the legitimacy of the all-white state delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

 

On national television, her testimony depicted voter discrimination, violence against herself and other African-Americans in Mississippi.

 

Hamer’s moving testimony contributed to the DNC changing the rules in 1968 to require equal representation of state delegations at national party conventions.

 

Hamer’s activism expanded when she ran for Congress in the Mississippi Democratic primary in 1964. While she was blocked from appearing on the ballot, she went on to appear at rallies and spoke to college students around the U.S.

 

Along with her political activism, Hamer dedicated her time assisting the poor in her community by testifying before the Senate’s Subcommittee on Poverty in 1967.

 

Years later, she founded Freedom Farms Corporation, a land cooperative that provided poor farmers with land to farm, live on and eventually purchase.  

 

Hamer dedicated her life to fighting prejudice, discrimination and oppression. Her sweet, compassionate spirit won’t be forgotten.

 

As we celebrate African-American history, let us not forget Hamer’s contributions, as well as the contributions of so many other African-Americans towards a more united and accepting country.