February 6, 2024
Fannie Lou Hamer (nee Townsend) was an American voting and women’s rights activist and leader in the civil rights movement. Born on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi, she was the last of the 20 children of Lou Ella and James Lee Townsend. From age six, Hamer picked cotton with her family who were sharecroppers. She attended school only between picking seasons, and only until the age of twelve when she was forced to quit to help support the family
She married Perry Hamer and together they became involved in civil rights activism in the 1960s. In 1964 she co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. The group existed specifically to assist in the registration of black voters. Hamer took it a step further and demanded that the state of Mississippi include African-Americans as state delegates. Her group was successful in forcing the Democratic Party to integrate and she herself was named as a Mississippi delegate for Democratic party in 1974.
Hamer was famously successful in registering thousands of African-Americans in Mississippi. Her efforts became well known throughout the state and she eventually decided to run for office herself. She ran for the U.S. Senate in 1964, losing to John C. Stennis. However, her efforts did not end there. In 1970, she led legal action against the government of Sunflower County, Mississippi for its continued illegal segregation.
Hamer died on March 14, 1977, in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Her memorial service was widely attended and her eulogy was delivered by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young.
Fannie Lou Hamer was a remarkable woman who fought tirelessly for civil rights and women’s rights. Her legacy continues to inspire people around the world to stand up for what is right and just. She was a true leader and a hero to many, and her contributions to the civil rights movement will never be forgotten.