We live in a society that dictates to whom credit is bestowed. For instance, soldiers who are shot and come out alive receive a great deal of honor.
Gang initiates who are brutally beaten often receive respect from other members in exchange for the beating.
Prisoners of war who are tortured and then rescued receive the utmost compassion and admiration.
Unfortunately, not all who deserve acknowledgement get it.
But, if it takes survival of violence and torture for honor, respect and admiration, then Fannie Lou Hamer deserves it all.
This woman not only survived ridicule and several attempts on her life, but she made her mark on the world in the process.
Hamer was the youngest of 20 children and the grandchild of slaves.
She was forced to completely abandon education in order to help her family sharecrop on a plantation owned by whites.
By the time she was 12, she could pick 300 pounds of cotton a day.
During a particularly bountiful season, her father saved up enough money to buy a few animals and a small plot of land for the family in hopes of escaping the poverty of sharecropping.
The family’s dream was crushed when some white neighbors poisoned all of their animals.
This is one of many stories that shaped Hamer’s character.
She leaned on the Bible to teach her to read and, most importantly, guide her spirit.
In 1962, Hamer left Ruleville, Miss. and went to Indianola, Miss. with 17 others to register to vote.
On the way back, police stopped their bus.
The police arrested and jailed the whole group immediately.
After getting out of jail and returning to the plantation, the owner told her that if she attempted to vote she would not be allowed to stay on the farm.
After leaving, more than a dozen gunshots were fired into the home of the family where Hamer was staying at the time.
Hamer threw herself into work with voter registration groups and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
She traveled to various cities in the state to push just treatment and equal rights for all.
In one of her trips, police ordered Hamer and other civil rights workers off a bus and into jail.
Hamer said “…Then three white men came into my room.
“One was a state highway policeman (he had the marking on his sleeve)… They said they were going to make me wish I was dead.
“They made me lay down on my face and they ordered two Negro prisoners to beat me with a blackjack. That was unbearable.
“The first prisoner beat me until he was exhausted, then the second Negro began to beat me.
“I had polio when I was about 6 years old. I was limp. I was holding my hands behind me to protect my weak side.
“I began to work my feet. My dress pulled up and I tried to smooth it down.
“One of the policemen walked over and raised my dress as high as he could.
“They beat me until my body was hard, ’til I couldn’t bend my fingers or get up when they told me to. That’s how I got this blood clot in my eye – the sight’s nearly gone now.
My kidney was injured from the blows they gave me on the back.”
Hamer went on to share her story on national television to millions of viewers. She exposed whites that used illegal tests, taxes, and intimidation to keep blacks from voting.
In 1964, she made sure that members of her organization, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, received seating and speaking privileges at a congressional session that forever changed democratic policy regarding civil rights. Meanwhile, she constantly received death threats.
Her political activism directly influenced democrats to agree that in the future, no delegation would be seated from a state where anyone was illegally denied a vote.
Soon after, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
For years, Hamer was a member of the board of trustees of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
Back in Black is brought to you through a partnership of the 2005-2006 Royal Court and The Famuan All information used in this profile was provided by the Royal Court.
Compiled by Kimberly Brown Source: www.greatwomen.org