Fannie Lou Hamer was a galvanizing force of the Civil Rights movement, using her voice to advance voting rights and representation for Black Americans throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Faced with eviction, arrests, and abuse at the hands of white doctors, policemen, and others, Hamer stayed true to her faith and her conviction in non-violent progress. She helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, ran for Congress, and was one of the first three Black women in American history to be seated on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Hamer dedicated herself fully as a grassroots organizer of the Civil Rights movement, inspiring countless activists and pushing progress forward. This is her story.
6 October 1917: Birth
Fannie Lou Hamer was born in Choctaw County, Mississippi, the twentieth child of sharecroppers Jim and Ella Bramlett Townsend. By the time Hamer arrived, seven siblings had died. Her Bramlett and Townsend ancestors had arrived in Mississippi as enslaved people who stayed after the Civil War and lived in a perpetual cycle of low wage farming and grinding poverty, fueled by racism and discrimination. A cotton patch in the Delta area in Mississippi. This area produces 500,000 bales of cotton annually. July 1937. Lange, Dorothea, photographer.
Images are from Walk with Me, except where otherwise noted and linked.