Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Fannie Lou Hamer
Soon, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee organizer Bob Moses heard about "the lady that sings the hymns" and recruited her to begin traveling throughout the South encouraging others to risk their lives for justice. Jailed on false charges in Winona, Mississippi, Hamer was very nearly beaten to death before she was released. Nevertheless, she went on to organize some of the best known and most effective actions of the voter registration campaign, including "Freedom Summer" in 1964, during which many college students -- both Black and White -- descended on Mississippi to support the struggle in various ways.
That same summer, Hamer spoke to the nation on television when her "Freedom Democrats" challenged the all-White and anti-civil rights delegation to the Democratic National Convention as not representing all Mississippians. "Is this America," she asked boldly, "the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily -- because we want to live as decent human beings?"
Older, overworked, frustrated and unwell, Hamer's famous line "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired" appears on her tombstone. But she maintained until the day she died that "Nobody's free until everybody's free." An in-your-face woman has no quit in her.