Fannie Lou Hamer was one of the heroes of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.
Hamer was a voting rights organizer from Ruleville, deep in the heart of the Mississippi delta, when she stepped into the national spotlight at the 1964 Democratic Convention. Hamer and her integrated delegation from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party charged that the all white, anti-civil rights delegation from Mississippi didn’t represent all democrats in the state. In the end, Hamer rejected an unsatisfying compromise Democrats had crafted to keep southerners from supporting Republican Barry Goldwater.
She ran for congress twice after that, but lost. She continued to work on civil rights, children’s education and access to fresh foods for the poor.
She died in 1977 and is buried in Ruleville beside her husband at the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden. Andrew Young attended her funeral. So many people came to pay respects that an overflow service took place at the local high school.
A statue to Hamer was dedicated at the park in 2012.
On the bus, UW student Chris Springs helped set the scene before our visit to the garden. Bob Zellner, who worked with Hamer, told stories. Student Mentor Komal Sahota sang a song in her honor. Then we lined up beneath Fannie Lou Hamer’s statue and musician Mark Pearson led us in Hamer’s favorite song, “This Little Light of Mine,”