Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer

I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know much about civil rights hero Fannie Lou Hamer before I began my research for this book. I’m pretty sure my ignorance is symptomatic of how poorly most of us are taught American history. For too many of us, what we learned in school about the civil rights movement of the second half of the 20th century in America was woefully incomplete, and was centered on the myth that because of the sole bravery of Mrs. Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, civil rights were won, end-of-story. Of course, Rosa Parks’s and Dr. Martin Luther King’s contributions were invaluable, but they were two in an army of many, and we are still, in 2019, fighting for racial equity.

Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer’s role in the movement was absolutely fundamental, yet I never learned about her in school, not in a single history class I took. Which is a travesty, as she is a true American hero — a woman of unwavering courage and commitment to democracy for all citizens of the United States. And a woman who shook the nation when she was televised testifying at the Democratic National Convention in August of 1964 about the terror she experienced at the hands of white supremacists, hellbent on getting her to stop organizing for civil rights.

If you, too, would like to know more about this phenomenal woman, Kay Mills’ brief biography of Mrs. Hamer is a good place to start. I’m also including a link to the biography of Mrs. Hamer found in PBS’s American Experience. And check out John T. Edge’s op-ed about the farming collectives Mrs. Hamer started in the 1970s, understanding that to own the land was to guarantee her own autonomy. Or as Mrs. Hamer put it, “If we have that land, can’t anybody starve us out.”

Interested in learning more? These books are great: