“I didn’t try to register for you”: The power and strength of Fannie Lou Hamer

I can’t remember how old I was when I learned about the life and work of Fannie Lou Hamer, but I know I was older than I should have been. I find that with my students too; while a few of them have heard her name, most have not. In my Social Movement and Social Change class this semester, we have spent a couple of weeks focusing on the Civil Rights movement/era in the US, and one of the readings was Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony before the Credentials Committee of the Democratic National Convention.

This image is from the Library of Congress: Fannie Lou Hamer at the Democratic National Convention, 1964

You can listen to this testimony at the site below. Content Warning: There are several references to violence where she is recounting what she endured after registering to vote.

https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/fannielouhamercredentialscommittee.htm

While her most famous quote might be “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired”, I think her words that best illustrate her power and her resolve are Sometimes it seem like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I’m not backing off.

Here are other places where you can learn about her life and work to bring about political and social change:

https://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/portraits/fannie-lou-hamer

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/fannie-lou-hamer

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