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Wikipedia Summary for Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer (née Townsend; October 6, 1917 – March 14, 1977) was an American voting and women's rights activist, community organizer, and a leader in the civil rights movement. She was the co-founder and vice-chair of the Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Hamer also organized Mississippi's Freedom Summer along with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She was also a co-founder of the National Women's Political Caucus, an organization created to recruit, train, and support women of all races who wish to seek election to government office.

Hamer began civil rights activism in 1962, continuing until her health declined nine years later. She was known for her use of spiritual hymnals and quotes and her resilience in leading the civil rights movement for black women in Mississippi. She was extorted, threatened, harassed, shot at, and assaulted by racists, including members of the police, while trying to register for and exercise her right to vote. She later helped and encouraged thousands of African-Americans in Mississippi to become registered voters and helped hundreds of disenfranchised people in her area through her work in programs like the Freedom Farm Cooperative. She unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1964 and the Mississippi State Senate in 1971. In 1970, she led legal action against the government of Sunflower County, Mississippi for continued illegal segregation.

Hamer died on March 14, 1977, aged 59, 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. She was posthumously inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.

I'm showing the people that a Negro can run for office.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs trying to register to vote.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

Actually since the Convention I have gotten so many letters that I have tried to answer but every letter said they thought this decision, not to accept the compromise, was so important. There wasn't one letter I have gotten so far that said we should have accepted the compromise -- not one.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

Just because people are fat, it doesn't mean they are well fed. The cheapest foods are the fattening ones, not the most nourishing.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I would like to talk about some of the things that happened that made me know that there was something wrong in the south from a child.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

The methods used to take human lives, such as abortion, the pill, the ring, etc., amounts to genocide. I believe that legal abortion is legal murder.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

You know I'm not hung up on this liberating myself from the black man -- I'm not going to try that thing.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

Righteousness exalts a nation. Hate just makes people miserable.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

We didn't come all the way up here to compromise for no more than we'd gotten here. We didn't come all this way for no two seats, 'cause all of us is tired.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I believe in Christianity because the Scriptures said: The things that have been done in the dark will be known on the house tops.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

That's why I believe in Christianity because the Scriptures said: The things that have been done in the dark will be known on the house tops.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I feel sorry for anybody that could let hate wrap them up. Ain't no such thing as I can hate anybody and hope to see God's face.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

It is our right to stay here and we will stay and stand up for what belongs to us as American citizens, because they can't say that we haven't had patience.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I had to leave, and my husband was forced to stay on this plantation until after the harvest season was over. And then the man that we had worked for, he'd taken the car, and the most of the few things we had had been stolen.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

If this is a Great Society, I'd hate to see a bad one.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

My parents would make huge crops of sometimes 55 to 60 bales of cotton. Being from a big family where there were 20 children, it wasn't too hard to pick that much cotton. But my father, year after year, didn't get too much money and I remember he just kept going.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

If I fall, I will fall five-feet four-inches forward in the fight for freedom.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

The people at home will work hard and actually all of them think it was important that we hade the decision that we did make not to compromise; because we didn't have anything to compromise for.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

My mother was a great woman. To look at her from the suffering she had gone through to bring us up -- 20 children: 6 girls and 14 boys, but still she taught us to be decent and to respect ourselves, and that is one of the things that has kept me going, even after she passed.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

On her Freedom Farm Cooperative: If you give a hungry man food, he will eat it. But if you give him land, he will grow his own food.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

This white man who is saying it takes time. For three hundred and more years they have had time, and now it is time for them to listen.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

It would bring tears in your eyes to make you think of all those years, the type of brain-washing that this man will use in America to keep us separated from our own people.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

No. What would I look like fighting for equality with the white man?  I don't want to go down that low.  I want the true democracy that'll raise me and that white man up raise America up.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

Our foreparents were mostly brought from West Africa. We were brought to America and our foreparents were sold; white people bo ught them; white people changed their names my maiden name is supposed to be Townsend, but really, what is my maiden name? What is my name?

--Fannie Lou Hamer

A black woman's body was never hers alone.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

They -- you know, when we walked in -- when I walked in with the two white men that had carried me down -- and they cursed me all the way down. They would ask me questions, and when I would try to answer, they would tell me to hush.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I don't know about the press, but I know in the town where I live everybody was aware that I was in Africa, because I remember after I got back some of the people told me that Mayor Dura of our town said he just wished they would boil me in tar.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

We serve God by serving our fellow man; kids are suffering from malnutrition. People are going to the fields hungry. If you are a Christian, we are tired of being mistreated.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

A white man killed the mules and our cows that knocked us right back down. And things got so tough then I began to wish I was white.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I don't want equal rights with the white man; if I did, I'd be a thief and a murderer.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

They talked about how it was our rights as human beings to register and vote. I never knew we could vote before. Nobody ever told us.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I'd been in jail, and I'd been beat. I had been to a voter registration workshop, you know, to -- they were just training and teaching us how to register, to pass the literacy test.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

We hadn't heard anything about registering to vote because when you see this flat land in here, when the people would get out of the fields, if they had a radio, they'd be too tired to play it. So we didn't know what was going on in the rest of the state, even, much less in other places.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

Is this America, 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 in America?

--Fannie Lou Hamer

On the 10th of September 1962, sixteen bullets was fired into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tucker for me.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I was forced away from the plantation because I wouldn't go back and withdraw, you know, my literacy test after I had tried to take it. I wouldn't go back.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

Every red stripe in that flag represents the black man's blood that has been shed.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

My mother got down sick in 53 and she lived with me, an invalid, until she passed away in 1961. And during the time she was staying with me sometime I would be worked so hard I couldn't sleep at night.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

Never to forget where we came from and always praise the bridges that carried us over.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

In fact, one day I was going to Jackson and I saw a huge sign that U.S. Senator John Stennis was speaking that night for the White Citizens Council in Yazoo City and they also have a State Charter that they may set up for private schools. It is no secret.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

You know the Scripture says be not deceived for God is not mocked; whatsoever a man sow that shall he also reap. And one day, I don't know how they're going to get it, but they're going to get some of it back. They are scared to death and are more afraid now than we are.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

What I really feel is necessary is that the black people in this country wil have to upset this apple cart. We can no longer ignore the fact that America is not the... land of the free and the home of the brave.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

It was the 31st of August in 1962 that eighteen of us traveled twenty-six miles to the county courthouse in Indianola to try to register to become first-class citizens. We was met in Indianola by policemen, Highway Patrolmen, and they only allowed two of us in to take the literacy test at the time.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

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.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

Longer Version:

The only thing I really feel is necessary is that the black people, not only in Mississippi, will have to actually upset this applecart. What I mean by that is, so many things are under the cover that will have to be swept out and shown to this whole world, not just to America. This thing they say of the land of the free and the home of the brave is all on paper. It doesn't really mean anything to us. The only way we can make this thing a reality in America is to do all we can to destroy this system and bring this out to the light that has been under the cover all these years.


This problem is not only in Mississippi. During the time I was in the Convention in Atlantic City, I didn't get any threats from Mississippi. The threatening letters were from Philadelphia, Chicago and other big cities.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

After we testified before the Credentials Committee in Atlantic City, their Mississippi representative testified also. He said I got 600 votes but when they made the count in Mississippi, I was told I had 388 votes. So actually it is no telling how many votes I actually got.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

The Mississippi is not the only river. There's the Tallahatchie and the Big Black. People have been put in the river year after year, these things been happening.

--Fannie Lou Hamer


I am determined to get every Negro in the state of Mississippi registered.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

These people in Mississippi State, they are not down; all they need is a chance. And I am determined to give my part not for what the Movement can do for me, but what I can do for the Movement to bring about a change in the State of Mississippi.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

One day I know the struggle will change. There's got to be a change-not only for Mississippi, not only for the people in the United States, but people all over the world.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

Why should I leave Ruleville, and why should I leave Mississippi? I go to the big city, and with the kind of education they give us in Mississippi, I got problems. I'd wind up in a soup line there.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

That's why I want to change Mississippi. You don't run away from problems -- you just face them.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

One day, I know the struggle will change. There's got to be a change -- not only for Mississippi, not only for the people in the United States, but people all over the world.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

If I fall, I'll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I'm not backing off.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

There is one thing you have got to learn about our movement. Three people are better than no people.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

With the people, for the people, by the people. I crack up when I hear it; I say, with the handful, for the handful, by the handful, cause that's what really happens.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

White Americans today don't know what in the world to do because when they put us behind them, that's where they made their mistake... they put us behind them, and we watched every move they made.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

If the white man gives you anything -- just remember when he gets ready he will take it right back. We have to take for ourselves.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

Nobody's free until everybody's free.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

People have got to get together and work together. I'm tired of the kind of oppression that white people have inflicted on us and are still trying to inflict.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

--Fannie Lou Hamer

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