October 6, 1917 – Fannie Lou Hamer
Outspoken civil rights leader and veteran Mississippi voter rights worker, Fannie Lou Hamer was born on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi. Who would have thought the youngest of twenty children born to sharecroppers James Lee and Ella Townsend in rural Mississippi would one day help transform American politics by her social activism and unselfish commitment to the rights of others.
Hamer’s life of civil rights work began with her attending a meeting that focused on encouraging Mississippians to register to vote. She following the instructions given to her on that day, registered to vote and began encouraging others to register to vote. This was the beginning of her life commitment to the civil rights of her fellow citizens. She helped organize Mississippi’s Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Fannie Lou Hammer is known widely for her speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She suffered immensely because of her work for voting rights, it was at the convention where she described one incident in which after attending a workshop in Winona, Mississippi in 1963, she was falsely arrested along with two others by police. Hamer was beaten so badly with a blackjack in a cell by other inmates at the orders of police that she suffered permanent kidney damage. Fannie Lou Hamer died on March 14, 1977 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi at age 59.