Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Carlos Barter
  • 90th Missile Wing Equal Opportunity
"I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired." The 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. Born Oct. 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Miss., Hamer was the granddaughter of a slave and the youngest of 20 children. She was a sharecropper most of her life and met her husband, Perry Hamer, on the plantation where she worked.

When Hamer learned that African Americans had been given the right to vote, she took the trip to Indianola, Miss., to attempt to register. The attempt was unsuccessful do to the infamous literacy tests. During one attempt to register, the group was stopped by police, arrested and beaten. She was also fired from her job and threatened for her activism; however, this did not deter her. In 1963, she became a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and, with determination, successfully registered to vote. 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.

Since the Mississippi Democratic Party excluded African Americans at the time, Hamer aided in founding the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. Hamer was a voice for the civil rights struggle in Mississippi when the Freedom Democrats challenged the legitimacy of the all-white Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. On national television, her testimony depicted voter discrimination and violence against herself and African Americans in Mississippi. Hamer's moving testimony helped lead the DNC to change 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 state Democratic primary in 1964. The run was unsuccessful because she was prohibited 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 to also assist the poor in her Mississippi community. She testified 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 they farmed and lived on, and eventually purchased themselves.

Hamer dedicated her life to fight prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. Her sweet, compassionate spirit won't be forgotten. As we celebrate African American Black 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.