Fannie Lou Hamer Awtt Portrait

Fannie Lou Hamer

Sharecropper, Civil Rights Activist : 1917 - 1977

“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.”

Biography

The youngest of 20 children.

6 years old when she started working cotton fields in Mississippi.

Called the “spirit of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Began working with SNCC in 1962.

A founding member and Vice President of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, changed this nation’s perspective on democracy. She worked for political, social, and economic equality for herself and all African Americans. She fought to integrate the national Democratic Party and became one of the first Black delegates to a presidential convention.

Fannie Lou Townsend was born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, in 1917, the youngest of twenty children. By the age of six, she was working in the cotton fields. Although she dropped out of school at age twelve, she continued her education with Bible study. When she was twelve, her parents accumulated enough money to rent a farm and buy mules and tools for farming.  A white neighbor poisoned their mules, forcing them into even greater debt. On the plantation where she worked, she met her future husband, Perry Hamer. Her Christian faith was a source of strength for her throughout her life, and she became known in the civil rights movement as a captivating preacher and singer, inspiring others with her moral and physical courage.

In 1962, the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came to Hamer’s town and encouraged African Americans to register as voters. Hamer volunteered, even though she had not previously known that voting was a constitutional right.  After registering herself and working with SNCC, she lost her job, received death threats, and was severely beaten by the police in an effort to intimidate her.  Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) in 1964 because African Americans were not allowed in the all-white Democratic Party delegation. Although Lyndon Johnson refused to seat the MFDP, the Democrats agreed that in the future no delegation would be seated from a state where anyone was illegally denied the right to vote.

Hamer also worked towards achieving financial independence for African Americans. In 1969, she helped to start the Freedom Farms Cooperative, which lent land to African Americans until they had enough money to buy it. She worked with the National Council of Negro Women, organized food co-operatives, and helped convene the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.

Though Hamer wanted children, a white doctor had sterilized her without permission, so she adopted daughters instead.  In her last years, she received many honors and awards. Engraved on her headstone in her hometown of Ruleville, Mississippi, are her famous words: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Programs

Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) offers a variety of ways to engage with its portraits and portrait subjects. Host an exhibit, use our free lesson plans and educational programs, or engage with a member of the AWTT team or portrait subjects.

Education

Education

AWTT has educational materials and lesson plans that ask students to grapple with truth, justice, and freedom.

Community Engagement

Exhibits & Community Engagement

AWTT encourages community engagement programs and exhibits accompanied by public events that stimulate dialogue around citizenship, education, and activism.

Contact Us to Learn How to Bring a Portrait Exhibit to Your Community.

We are looking forward to working with you to help curate your own portrait exhibit. Contact us to learn about the availability of the AWTT portraits, rental fees, space requirements, shipping, and speaking fees. Portraits have a reasonable loan fee which helps to keep the project solvent and accessible to as many people as possible. AWTT staff is able help exhibitors to think of creative ways to cover these expenses.

Americans Who Tell The Truth

Hear Updates from AWTT

Learn more about our programs and hear about upcoming events to get engaged.

Help Support AWTT

Your donations to AWTT help us promote engaged citizenship. Together we will make a difference.

© 2022 Americans Who Tell The Truth