Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, changed a nation’s perspective on democracy.
Hamer became involved in the civil rights movement when she volunteered to attempt to register to vote in 1962. By then 45 years old and a mother, Hamer lost her job and continually risked her life because of her civil rights activism. Despite this and a brutal beating, Hamer spoke frequently to raise money for the movement, and helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, to challenge white domination of the Democratic Party.
In 1964, the MFDP challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation to the Democratic Convention, and in l968, the Convention seated an integrated challenge delegation from Mississippi.
Deeply committed to improving life for poor minorities in her state, Hamer, working with the National Council of Negro Women and others, helped organize food cooperatives and other services. She continued political activities as well, helping to convene the National Women’s Political Caucus in the 1970s. She is buried in her home town of Ruleville, Mississippi, where her tombstone reads, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”