Fannie Lou Hamer might be most famous for saying “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired”, but she should be remembered as the woman that saved the Democrat Party.
In 1917, Fannie Lou Hamer was born in Mississippi as the youngest of twenty children. In the 1950s, she began attending meetings of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership in Mississippi.
At the age of 44, Fannie Lou Hamer was forcibly sterilized due to the state of Mississippi’s plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state.
At a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (the organization once lead by John Lewis), Hamer was the first volunteer to register to vote. At that time, blacks who registered to vote faced the threat of violence, being fired from their jobs, or being killed. Despite this Fannie Lou Hamer said, “The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”
And try they did: In 1963, Hamer and other activists were jailed in Winona, Mississippi and brutally beaten. She was injured badly enough that she needed a month to recover from her injuries. She recovered and kept fighting.
In 1964, Hamer became vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which sought to challenge the all-white, anti-civil rights Democrat Party for representation at the Democratic National Convention. President Lyndon Johnson and Vice Presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey, afraid to lose the votes of white southerners, rejected the Freedom Democrats.
Fannie Lou Hamer concluded a pointed statement to Hubert Humphrey criticizing him for his cowardice by saying, “Senator Humphrey, I’m going to pray to Jesus for you.”
Why She Should Be Remembered: Fannie Lou Hamer was beaten, sterilized, and rejected by a state that hated her. Though she was unsuccessful in 1964, the Democratic National Committee demanded that all state Democrat parties have equal representation in 1968. In short, she helped save half of our political system from the clutches of bigotry.
2. NH Smith
3. John Lewis