Tag: Fannie Lou Hamer

The Day Fannie Lou Hamer Shocked America

By Alan Bean

I am re-posting this piece in honor of the 50th anniversary of Ms. Hamer’s celebrated speech to the credentials committee of the Democratic Convention in 1964.  AGB

“If the freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America.  Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off of the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”  Fannie Lou Hamer

The summer of 1964 was a watershed moment for the civil right movement and for America.  Never before had black and white Americans worked together with such common purpose.  And yet, by the end of August, black civil rights leaders were vowing never to work with white people again.   Meanwhile, white civil rights activists realized they didn’t have a home in either of the major political parties.

The voting rights movement had been building momentum in Mississippi since the Freedom Rides of 1961.  The work was dangerous, beatings were commonplace and martyrs were plentiful.  What better way to win protection and attention than to issue a call to idealistic young white people from across America to come to Mississippi for the summer of 1964?  John Kennedy had been assassinated half a year earlier and a still-grieving nation was desperate for healing.

Across the southern states, only 40% of eligible African Americans were registered to vote; in Mississippi it was 6.4%.  As we have seen, civic leaders in the Magnolia State were determined to keep Negroes out of the courthouse.  For the most part, they were successful.  To outsiders this looked like blatant injustice, but the good people of Mississippi felt they were simply preserving a cherished way of life.  Throughout the spring and early summer the young people kept coming, just as they had at the high water mark of the Freedom Ride movement.  They were young, idealistic, dedicated and often remarkably naive.  Fannie Lou Hamer had to take the white girls aside and explain why it was a bad idea to be seen in public with a young black male–no matter how good looking and entertaining he might be. (more…)

Honoring the real Fannie Lou Hamer


By Alan Bean

A statue has been erected in the Ruleville, Mississippi home of civil rights legend Fannie Lou Hamer.  I have read several stories related to this event, and thus far not one of them mentions the ugly fact that Ms. Hamer, along with several companions, were beaten half to death in the Montgomery County Jail in June of 1963.

It is inspiring to learn that Fannie Lou Hamer’s gospel singing inspired a beleaguered handful of black sharecroppers to enter a courthouse in Indianola.  But the shameful side of the story is often passed over without comment.  It is shameful that courthouse personnel refused to allow Hamer and friends to register, as is the fact that she was summarily fired when she returned to her Sunflower County plantation, as is the fact that, later that night, someone fired a shotgun at the home in which Fannie Lou took refuge.

It is inspiring to imagine an intrepid Fannie Lou Hamer telling Hubert Humphrey that the Freedom Democrats of Mississippi didn’t come all the way to the Atlantic City Democratic Convention in 1964 “for no two votes”.  It is shameful that Lyndon Johnson, the civil rights president, called a press conference for the sole purpose of deflecting media attention away from Ms. Hamer’s testimony before the credentials committee.

But Fannie Lou got the best of the world’s most powerful man, a man who dismissed her as “that ignorant woman”.  Johnson feared, with good reason, that if the Mississippi Freedom Democrats were accepted as delegates in good standing, he would lose the support of Dixiecrat Senator James Eastland and white votes across the South.  Hamer’s testimony was so gripping that all three major networks featured her entire presentation on the evening news.  America was treated to a blow-by-blow account of the indignities Fannie Lou Hamer and her friends experienced at the courthouse in Indianola and the horrors she encountered in Montgomery County, Mississippi.  She left nothing to the imagination.

America was never the same.

I was pleased to see that the daughter of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers was present for unveiling of Fannie Lou’s statue.  The article failed to mention that Evers was assassinated while Hamer and her companions were being assaulted in Montgomery County.  Fannie Lou Hamer was an untutored woman with a courageous heart, a powerful singing voice, and a genius for grassroots organizing.  The price for changing America was steep, but Fannie Lou paid it in full.  God rest her soul.

Please click on the video and listen to the words that changed America.

A nice girl like you . . .

(This post is part of a series concerning Curtis Flowers, an innocent man convicted of a horrific crime that has divided a small Mississippi town.  Information on the Flowers case can be found here.)

Lydia Chassaniol is in trouble.  How much trouble remains to be seen, but the Mississippi State Senator (R-Winona) has the regional blogosphere in an uproar.

Remember the mid-to-late 1990s when prominent Mississippi politicians like Bob Barr and Trent Lott got too cozy with the Council of Conservative Citizens?  That’s the white separatist hate group the New York Times describes as having “a thinly-veiled white supremacist agenda”.  You can buy a “white pride” T-shirt on the CCC website and read headlines like: “The whole world treats Obama as a joke!” and “Mass immigration equals white genocide.”

The CCC platform praises America’s “European” heritage and condemns “mixture of the races”.   CCC leaders still like to refer to “Martin Looter Coon” and have described African Americans as “a retrograde species of humanity”.  According to Ward Schaefer of the Jackson Free Press, “Columnists in the CofCC’s newsletter have hyperventilated that non-white immigration to the U.S. was transforming the country into a ‘slimy brown mass of glop.'”

You get the picture. (more…)