Known for her civil rights activism, Fannie Lou Hamer was called "the spirit of the civil rights movement." Born a sharecropper, she worked from the age of six as a timekeeper on a cotton plantation. Later, she became involved in the Black Freedom Struggle and eventually moved on to become a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Dates: October 6, 1917 - March 14, 1977
Also known as: Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer, born in Mississippi, was working in the fields when she was six, and was only educated through the sixth grade. She married in 1942, and adopted two children. She went to work on the plantation where her husband drove a tractor, first as a field worker and then as the plantation"s timekeeper. She also attended meetings of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, where speakers addressed self-help, civil rights, and voting rights.
In 1962, Fannie Lou Hamer volunteered to work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) registering black voters in the South. She and the rest of her family lost their jobs for her involvement, and SNCC hired her as a field secretary. She was able to register to vote for the first time in her life in 1963, and then taught others what they"d need to know to pass the then-required literacy test. In her organizing work, she often led the activists in singing Christian hymns about freedom: "This Little Light of Mine" and others.
She helped organize the 1964 "Freedom Summer" in Mississippi, a campaign sponsored by SNCC, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the NAACP.
In 1963, after being charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to go along with a restaurant"s "whites only" policy, Hamer was beaten so badly in jail, and refused medical treatment, that she was permanently disabled.
Because African Americans were excluded from the Mississippi Democratic Party, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was formed, with Fannie Lou Hamer as a founding